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Israel’s shameful hosting of the UEFA under-21 men’s football finals, due to conclude when defending champions Spain face five-time champions Italy on Tuesday June 18, has elicited a range of creative protests from Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and from operatic singers in the UK.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel's Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

In the West Bank village of Nabih Saleh, regular protests against the course of Israel’s Apartheid wall deployed the Red Card symbol. See a series of photos here.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

Israeli activists staged a series of Red Card protests linking the UEFA tournament to 65 years of confiscation of Palestinian land.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football's favourite operatic number a new twist.

In London, J-BIG soprano Deborah Fink and baritone Willem Meijs gave football’s favourite operatic number a new twist. See YouTube video of their performance.



The suggestion by Zionist supporters that Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon in The Sunday Times was anti-Semitic is a classic example of the abuse of the term. It drains the term of all meaning and, like the boy who cried wolf, desensitises people to anti-Semitism when it does rear its head.

This was the opening paragraph of a letter in the Independent newspaper on February 4, submitted by Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods and carrying 28 names gathered at short notice. They included actress Miriam Margolyes, OBE and writer Alexei Sayle as well as a sprinkling of professors and other academics.

Read the whole letter here.

 The letter has attracted several appreciative comments from readers of the Independent. 

Here is one:

I am writing to say how pleased I am to see the letter in today’s Independent: Gerald Scarfe’s cartoon is not antisemitic.   Your examples of Palestinian youths are shocking and they, alone, provide justification for Scarfe’s cartoon.  I am ashamed to hear the ‘anti-semitic’ outcry: why do even Jews mix Israel with being Jewish?

As a Jew, I despair when the holocaust is emotively and perhaps even cynically high-jacked to obfuscate facts.   Palestinians have lost land, their human rights and their lives  due to the trifold expedience of Israeli internal politics, international support and military power.

I am certainly in favour of boycotting Israeli goods and will sign up right now.



Media reports from the US have confirmed what was briefly rumoured – legendary pop musician Stevie Wonder has cancelled his performance scheduled for December 6 at a gala in Los Angeles saluting IDF Soldiers.

The 25-time Grammy winner was to appear before an audience of more than 1,000, including dignitaries from the U.S. and Israel.

Stevie WonderPicture: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Stevie Wonder
Picture: REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Credit is due to all the activists who mobilised via social media to persuade the great singer to realise his mistake. This eloquent Palestinian plea must have helped move him to change his mind about playing for the benefit of the Israeli war machine:

Dear Stevie,

On a typical cold wintery night, on January 25th 1995, I hobbled on my crutches
with an inflamed and bandaged knee into the aisles of the famous Radio City
Music Hall in New York City. Here I was, a twenty three year old aspiring actor
from Palestine, who despite severely injuring my knee in a basketball game two
days before, was not about to miss what he will for the next eighteen years
claim as  “the best concert”  he ever attended. This was a concert by Stevie
Wonder, the genius whose music had inspired me and whose cassettes, CDs, and now mp3, had kept me company many a time, and who not only sang beautiful melodies with an amazing voice but whose lyrics tackled the whole spectrum of life. From oppression to freedom, from infidelity to the purest love, and from sadness to euphoria, so many of your songs are attached to the milestones of my life.

On that day in 1995, I had waited till the concert had ended and the crowd had
cleared and hopped on my crutches down to the stage door. With a mix of pity for my injury and some persuasion, I had convinced the bodyguards to let me through to meet you. There you were, standing talking to other fans or your crew. Struck by the awe of the moment, I had no idea what to say to you.  “Stevie, my name is Bassem and I am from Palestine”. You had looked towards my direction. I have no idea if you had even heard what I said, but that was my cue to approach you and give you a hug. You hugged me back. That was enough for me: the affirmation that I had a “moment” with you that no one could ever take away from me. Following that moment, I took off my black and white Palestinian kaffiyah, the symbol of struggle, resistance, and freedom for Palestinians, and put it in your hands and said, “This is from the people of Palestine.”  I have relived these moments, alone and with friends, with mostly joy, nostalgia, and sometimes humor. However, there was no doubt, in my mind that you were an artist who understood our world, who sided with the poor, the oppressed, the needy, and the heartbroken. Your music and words were your contribution to make the world a less little cruel.

Until today.

Today I was horrified to hear about your intension to play at the annual gala of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) organization to be held on December 6 in Los Angeles. Today I am living in Palestine and have just lived through the same Israeli Defense Forces, the one you are supporting, killing more than one hundred and thirty of my people in Gaza, many of whom were civilians including children. This army, Stevie, is a tool of oppression and subjugation that has kept me, my family, and my people occupied for over forty five years. Every day, this army is protecting the seizure of more Palestinian land to build illegal Israeli settlement on further denying me my rights as a human being. As I read the news of your upcoming performance, I kept on wondering, how can Stevie even contemplate doing this? There must be a mistake somehow. I searched the internet whether this was a rumor or a hoax.

Unfortunately, my worst fears were confirmed. You are supporting occupation,
oppression, destruction, and apartheid.

I have no idea what has led you to this decision. I am writing this open letter
hoping it results in the restoration of the almost perfect image of you and your
art in my mind and my life.

I am urging you to cancel this performance and stand with the values of justice
and peace for all.

At the end of the concert in 1995, the band had stopped playing after over two
hours of music. You were sitting on your piano stool and people were shouting
out the names of songs they still wanted you to play. Then suddenly, for a brief
moment, there ensued an eerily beautiful silence that encompassed that glorious
concert hall. Taking advantage of that, I yelled the name of my favorite song at
that time “Lately”. Without flinching, you turned to the band and said, “You
heard the man!” and the beautiful music had started flowing.

Here’s to hoping you hear me again.

Bassim Nasir


As Israel prepares to announce the draw for UEFA’s under-21 football finals in June next year, the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign has put out the following news release.
Nov 27 – On the eve of the announcement in Tel Aviv of the draw for the Euro 2013 under-21 finals next June, some of the biggest names in European football have condemned Israel ’s military attack on Gaza which killed 170 people, including Palestinian boys playing football, and destroyed vital sports infrastructure.
Former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute is among those signing a statement referring to Israel’s hosting of the U-21 championship as rewarding it “for actions that are contrary to sporting values”.   (See full statement below)
On November 8, 13-year-old Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa was shot in the abdomen by the Israeli military while playing football with his friends in ‘Abassan village, east of the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis . He died in hospital shortly afterwards. Four other boys were also killed.
The Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for London 2012, were among facilities wiped out by Israeli bomb attacks in the days that followed.
A number of football fixtures and gatherings have been moved because of the violence.
Pressure on UEFA to change the venue for the 2013 u-21 finals is mounting as 20 British Members of Parliament have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons  stating:
” That this House congratulates the Football Association for its Kick It Out campaign against racism in football; registers with profound disapproval, however, that the FA is prepared to participate in the European Under-21 football tournament to be played in Israel in June 2013, even though Israel is geographically not in Europe and is a country which has policies of racial apartheid against Palestinians.”
Campaigners in a number of European centres are marking the draw in Israel on Wednesday.
Red Card Israeli Racism in Britain has handed in a petition of several thousand signatures.  along with a statement from public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach, calling on the Football Association to support a change of venue for the 2013 tournament. (Text and signatures attached).
UK campaign coordinator Geoff Lee said, “ In addition to the increasing racist violence against Arabs in Israel which is well known to UEFA , the latest attacks by Israel on the besieged people of Gaza must make the UEFA delegates rethink this issue.”
In Italy, a letter has been delivered to the Italian Football Federation calling for withdrawal of the Italian national team from the competition unless there is a change of venue. On themorning of Wednesday, November 28 a protest will be held outside the nationalheadquarters in Rome during which activists have requested a meeting with management.
Frederic Kanoute, Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Jacques Faty and others
The horrific situation faced by Palestinian civilians in recent days is deeply concerning. We have learnt that on November 10 the Israeli army bombarded a sports stadium on Gaza . Four young people who were playing football were killed. Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara (16 and 17 years old), Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi (18 years old).
We are also aware that since February 2012 two footballers with the Al Amari team, Omar Rowis (23) and Mohammed Nemer (22) are still imprisoned in Israel without trial or charge.
In the run-up to Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, which will reward Israel for actions that are contrary to sporting values, we as European sportspeople wish to express our regret the turmoil of recent days, the primary victim of which has been the Palestinian people.
We express our solidarity and our support for the civilian causalities. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. The Palestinians must be protected by the rule of international law. We hope that a just peace will finally emerge – it is simply unacceptable that children are killed while they are peacefully playing football.
Palestine , le sport au pied du mur
La situation subie par les civils palestiniens ces derniers jours est plus que préoccupante. Nous avons appris que le 10 novembre, l’armée israélienne a bombardé un terrain de sport à Gaza . Quatre jeunes qui jouaient au football ont été tués : Mohamed Harara et Ahmed Harara (16 et 17 ans), Matar Rahman et Ahmed Al Dirdissawi (18 ans).
Nous savons en outre que depuis février 2012, les deux joueurs de football de l’équipe d’Al Amari, Omar Rowis (23 ans) Mohammed Nemer (22 ans) sont toujours emprisonnés en Israël sans procès et sans jugement.
À la veille où Israël doit accueillir l’Euro des moins de 21 ans, se voyant ainsi récompensé alors qu’il commet des actes qui restent contraires aux valeurs du Sport, nous, sportifs européens, regrettons la situation d’embrasement de ces derniers jours qui a pour première victime le peuple palestinien. Nous exprimons notre solidarité et notre soutien aux victimes civiles. Tout peuple a le droit de vivre dignement, dans la liberté et la sécurité. Les Palestiniens ne peuvent en ce sens être exclus du droit international. Nous espérons que le droit et la justice règneront enfin, parce qu’il est inadmissible que des enfants meurent alors qu’ils jouent paisiblement au football.
Premiers signataires: Kanoute, Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Jacques Faty
4. Events in Israel cancelled because of the violence:

5. England could host u-21 in 2013 instead of Israel

5. Statement from Ken Loach and other eminent figures calling for UEFA to move under-21 finals from Israel .
As football supporters we hear with concern an appeal from Mahmoud Sarsak, a young Palestinian national team player whose career was cut short by three years’ detention without trial in an Israeli jail.
We are aware that he regained his freedom last July 10, only after a three month hunger strike won him sympathy and support from influential voices in the football world.
Sarsak is asking us now to show our support for all Palestinians who love the beautiful game but who suffer the impact of discriminatory Israeli policies on Palestinian football and the life of the community in general.
We are disturbed by the myriad ways in which the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and the siege of  Gaza  prevent both the development of Palestinian sport at grass roots level and its representation in international competitions. These include:
  • regulations and checkpoints that block the movement of players between Palestinian towns and villages and between  Gaza  and the  West Bank ;
  • official interference preventing the Palestinian national team from travelling abroad to train or compete and making it virtually impossible for foreign teams to attend fixtures in Palestine ;
  • restrictions on the importation of equipment, even when donated by international footballing organisations;
  • prevention of the construction of facilities.
In addition to these impediments, life under occupation entails the constant threat of detention or even death. Two  West Bank footballers, Mohammed Saedy Ibrahim Nemer and goalkeeper Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis, were detained in February and have been incarcerated ever since.
Four footballers were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed during the Israeli assault on  Gaza  in December 2008 – January 2009.   Even children are not exempt. On June 20 this year, twelve-year-old Mamoun Zuhdi al-Dam was killed by an Israeli warplane as he played football on land near his family home in  Gaza .
Against this background, Sarsak has drawn our attention to Palestinian dismay at UEFA’s insistence on having  Israel  host next year’s under-21 finals.
He says that staging this, or any other UEFA competition, in  Israel “is legitimising  Israel ’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed to take place in  Israel .”
Taking into account the high profile given in European football to combating racism wherever it appears, we agree with Sarsak that it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.
We therefore call upon UEFA to move the 2013 U21 finals away from  Israel  and to assure Palestinians that  Israel  will not be granted such an honour as long as its discriminatory practices continue.
John Austin
Dr. Salman Abu Sitta
Stephen Cavalier
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Bob Crow
Rev. Garth Hewitt
Ghada Karmi
Bruce Kent,
Ken Loach
Paul Laverty
Kika Markham
Karma Nabulsi
Prof. Steven Rose
Keith Sonnet
David Thompson
Jenny Tonge


 November 15 – A nationwide campaign which has already interrupted 10 dance performances by Israel ’s Batsheva Ensemble in five cities up and down the country reached London ’s Sadler’s Wells this week, with activists saying mounting Palestinian deaths in Gaza added urgency to their protests.
Supporters of the Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign handed leaflets to audience members entering the theatre for this week’s evening shows, explaining why there will be protests when the Israeli troupe performs there on Nov 19, 20 & 21.
“We target artistic institutions which are intrinsically linked to the Israeli state through funding and the ‘Brand Israel ’ initiative,” the leaflets said. They quote an Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman outlining its explicit intention to send abroad cultural icons to “show Israel ’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
Although Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin has publicly opposed Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, his company is embraced by Israel ’s far-right government as their finest cultural ambassador.
It receives funding from the Israeli state, Israeli arms companies and the racist Jewish National Fund which works openly to dispossess Palestinians and replace them with Jewish immigrants.
Campaigners say their protest is not directed at individual Israeli artists, but at the government which deliberately uses art as cover for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.
A group of Italian artists has written in similar vein to the artistic director of the Turin Dance festival, which is due to host the Israeli company, and there were demonstrations at Batsheva performances in Rome on November 8 & 9.
“With Israel escalating its attacks on Gaza, killing at least a dozen civilians in recent days including two little girls and a number of boys on a football field,  we intend our protests to reclaim for the Palestinians a tiny piece of the cultural and physical space which Israel has stolen from them,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, cultural working group coordinator for the Boycott Israel Network, part of the UK Don’t Dance coalition.
Sadler’s Wells management has emailed ticket-holders telling them to expect “groups of peaceful demonstrators” at the Batsheva Ensemble performances, with the possibility of “some form of disruption inside the venue”. Bags will be searched on arrival and people should be ready for delays, the email said.
The theatre’s chief executive and artistic director Alistair Spalding refused to meet academics from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine  (BRICUP) who had asked to discuss the invitation to Batsheva with him.
Spalding insisted the Israeli company was no different from other international institutions: “the vehicle for the creative expression of their artistic directors and not .. representatives of the governments of their countries.
“I have a firm belief in cultural engagement rather than exclusion and … will present the work of choreographic artists whatever their nationality,” Spalding said.
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of BRICUP, said that Sadler’s Wells commitment to cultural engagement seemed not to extend to dialogue with principled critics. Spalding had failed to address any of the arguments BRICUP had made, said Rosenhead.
He referred in particular to the conditions under which Palestinian culture has to operate, described by a Palestinian dancer as “ Israel ‘s three-tiered system of occupation, colonisation and apartheid [which] ruthlessly suffocates the livelihoods of Palestinian communities, including our right to artistic and cultural expression.”

BRICUP has issued an open letter to Batsheva’s Naharin,  asking “What does the artistic freedom of yourself and your dancers mean, when it’s used as international cover by a state that’s essentially trying to force out the indigenous Palestinian population?”

Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid began its campaign with protests at performances by the main Batsheva Dance company in the Edinburgh International Festival at the end of August , winning support from considerable Scottish cultural figures including the national poet (Makar) Liz Lochhead.
Hundreds of campaign supporters have made their presence felt at every stop on the current tour by Batsheva’s junior Ensemble, beginning inScotland  before moving on to Manchester and Bradford .
In Brighton Green Party MP Caroline Lucas wrote to the Dome Theatre management reminding them that: “Israel’s sponsorship of arts and cultural events is one deliberate way in which it is actively seeking to repair the reputational damage inflicted by its treatment of Palestinians, so Palestinian civil society has called for a full cultural boycott of all cultural performers and exhibitors that are institutionally linked to the Israeli state.”
There were more protests on November 13 & 14 in Birmingham where a letter from a Palestinian Christian organisation questioning the hosting of Batsheva at the Hippodrome was presented to the Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Rev. David Urquhart, who is one of the theatre’s directors. Kairos Palestine, which sent the letter, has received no reply.
The next  Batsheva Ensemble tour date is in Leicester on Nov 16, followed by Sadler’s Wells on November 19 to 21. The tour ends in Plymouth on Nov 24.



Posters used by Manchester campaigners at the Salford Lowry on November 2 and 3


Israel’s Batsheva dance company, the focus of vociferous pro-Palestinian boycott activity during the Edinburgh International Festival two months ago, continues to attract protest during a UK tour by its junior ensemble.


Although its artistic director Ohad Naharin is a critic of Israeli policy towards Palestine, Batsheva is hailed by the current right-wing government as its “best global ambassador” and the company is financed by Israeli arms companies, the Israeli State, and the racist Jewish National Fund which works openly to dispossess Palestinians and replace them with Jewish immigrants.


This is why the Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid campaign has mounted protests at Batsheva Ensemble shows in Edinburgh, Manchester and Bradford, with more to come in Brighton, Birmingham, Leicester, London and Plymouth. There will also be protests in Italy later this week when the Batsheva Dance Company is due to perform in Rome.


Every performance has met with lively demonstrations outside the theatres as well as short but effective interruptions inside. This is despite extravagant attempts by venue managers to weed out Palestine sympathizers, covertly aided – or more likely pressurised – by zealots of the StandWithUs pro Israel  propaganda outfit.

The latest protests occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday in Bradford where 100 or more Palestine sympathisers gathered outside the Alhambra theatre on each night. A member of the Green Party explained their involvement in the protests in eloquent detail.

Demonstrators have written to the West Yorkshire police complaining of unnecessarily heavy-handed policing, but there have been no arrests. There has, however, been at least one assault on a peaceful protester by a pro-Israel audience member. Campaigners are considering bringing charges.

Such is the level of Zionist exasperation at the growing support for the boycott movement, modeled on the campaigns which helped end apartheid in South Africa, they have resorted to bringing charges of “racially aggravated conduct” against protest organisers. These have been justly brushed aside by the authorities in Edinburgh but have surfaced again in Brighton where Batsheva is due to perform next week.

This is clearly part of a campaign of intimidation against people of conscience trying to draw attention to Israel’s human rights abuses and violations of international law. Having no arguments to counter their critics, Israel’s apologists take refuge in smear tactics, ignoring the fact that throwing around the charge of antisemitism where it has no foundation devalues it and desensitises the public to genuine anti-Jewish racism when it arises.


Norma Turner who helped organise protests at Manchester’s Lowry on November 2 and 3, said there had been many Jewish people among those on the protests there. This had defused the usual “antisemite” slurs and facilitated a great deal of positive dialogue between campaigners and people entering the theatre. Attendance seemed to be low and discounts were on offer.


“A number of ticket holders decided against attending the performance after hearing us explain about the cynical Brand Israel project,” said Turner.


Brand Israel is a PR exercise started in 2005 by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs deliberately using culture as mask to beautify Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. The boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign is Palestinian’s non-violent response.


Activists have been accused of behaving like hooligans but this was clearly not the view of the Lowry management, who handed out hot drinks to protesters braving a rainy and windswept November night. This was despite the fact that managers had previously refused to engage with campaigners about Batsheva’s presence.


In London too, where the Israeli ensemble is due to perform at Sadler’s Wells on November 19/20/21, the venue management has so far refused to engage with  academics from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) who have requested a meeting. BRICUP has also issued a powerful open letter to Batsheva’s Naharin.

Naharin has emailed the Don’t Dance campaign and been quoted arguing that boycott action is of no benefit to the Palestinian people. He said it was motivated by “frustration and revenge” whereas Batsheva aimed “to build not to destroy”. We need “to try and create a dialogue” to replace “conflict” in a hugely complex situation, he said.

Mick Napier, chair of Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, wrote in response  “Far from ‘conflict’ impeding dialogue with protestors, it seems that only the fear of protests … induced Naharin to communicate in August, promising to discuss with his Board and get back to Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid. This budding ‘dialogue’, however, was still born, possibly because Batsheva hoped vainly that protests would fizzle out.” Napier said the Don’t Dance campaign has still not had a report-back from the Batsheva board.


In recent correspondence with one campaigner, Naharin wrote sarcastically that people in the West Bank must be celebrating because someone shouted out during a quiet part in one of the Batsheva Ensemble performances. The truth is that yes indeed, they are. Palestinians are so desperate for the world to take note of the injustices they suffer that a voice calling out on their behalf in a dance theatre in Scotland is something to celebrate.


Evidence of this can be seen in a YouTube clip from a group of young women in Gaza, not a slick, professional piece of Hasbara (propaganda), such as we are constantly fed by Israel’s foreign policy and media outlets, but a heartfelt statement of stifled Palestinian cultural expression contrasting bleakly with the freedom of Batsheva’s pampered dancers.


For more Palestinian cultural voices speaking for themselves, see:


Images and sounds of Gaza’s vibrant subculture in “Not a dreamland”

Remi Kanazi video debuts blistering new poem against the injustice of normalization


RAFEEF ZIADEH performs “Shades of Anger” and “We Teach Life, Sir”


There have been a few media reports of the Batsheva protests.

 Morning Star

Salford Star

This one avoids the underlying issues entirely:






One of the demonstrations for Palestine at football fixtures around Europe this autumn.

Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian football player whose career was cut short by three years’ detention without trial in an Israeli jail, has issued a plea for European football’s governing body UEFA not to go ahead with plans to stage next year’s under-21 finals in Israel.

Sarsak was released last July 10 after a three month hunger strike won him sympathy and support from influential voices in the football world. Former French and Manchester United star Eric Cantona, the international federation of professional footballers associations FIFPro and FIFA president Sepp Blatter were among those who called for his release.

In a letter thanking those who had helped win his freedom, Sarsak said Israel was not “a normal state where citizens can play sport freely.”  At least two footballers were among many hundreds of political detainees and there were endless repressive impediments to playing the game.

“I call on all those who spoke out for my release and the release of the Palestinian hunger strikers, to once again show their commitment to justice and equality by insisting that UEFA move their competitions away from Israel,” Sarsak said.

“UEFA is legitimising Israel’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed take place in Israel.”

Film maker Ken Loach and screen writer Paul Laverty have endorsed a statement for football professionals to sign, supporting Sarsak’s appeal.

The statement says:

“Taking into account the high profile given in European football to combating racism wherever it appears, we agree with Sarsak that it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.”

Sarsak’s letter was published on his behalf by the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement and has been taken up by the London-based Red Card Israeli Racism campaign.

“We urge everyone who cares about justice and equality for all involved in the game of football to support Mahmoud Sarsak’s appeal,” said campaign coordinator Geffrey Lee.

“We must endorse Sarsak’s call on UEFA to move planned competitions away from Israel as long as its discriminatory practices against Palestinians continue.”

Red Card Israeli Racism has gathered more than 2,800 signatures for a petition calling on UEFA president Michel Platini to move the 2013 under-21 finals from Israel.

Please add your name to the petition and publicise it widely.

In addition you can tell UEFA – politely – on Facebook why you support Sarsak’s appeal.

Campaigners staged actions in support of the campaign at football fixtures in France and Luxembourg on October 12.

At a playoff qualifier between France and Norway at the Stade Oceane in Le Havre , protesters carried on to the field a banner reading “Do not play for Apartheid”. The action was widely reported in the French media.

An earlier demonstration took place on September 20 at a match between Basque side Atletico Bilbao and Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shoma from Israel. Two Bilbao supporters’ clubs took part.


On July 10 of this year I was released after three years of imprisonment by the Israeli occupation forces and 92 days of hunger strike. The mobilisation by people of conscience around the world and the statements and comments by footballing organisations like FIFPro, professional footballers past and present such as Eric Cantona and Frederic Kanoute, senior football figures such as Sepp Blatter and other notable public figures, were both inspiring and immensely helpful in keeping the pressure on Israel and a major reason behind my eventual release.
I would like to offer my deepest, heartfelt gratitude to all those who spoke out against the inhumane treatment of Palestinians at a time when I and other hunger striking Palestinian political prisoners needed it most.
However, the arbitrary detention, abuse and torture of Palestinian political prisoners continue. Palestinian prisoner rights organisations have particular concerns about three who are on extended hunger strike – Samer Al-Barq, Hassan Safadi and Ayman Sharawna.
Israel works endlessly to repress Palestinian football, just like it does many other forms of Palestinian culture. Palestinian league player Mohammed Sadi Nemer and goalkeeper Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis were detained in February this year and remain in prison in Israel .
Football players Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshate, as well as over 1,400 other Palestinians in Gaza, were killed and the Rafah National Stadium was destroyed during Israel’s 2008-09 onslaught on Gaza.
Israel does not behave like a normal state where citizens can play sport freely. Why then, should it be granted the honour of hosting the UEFA U21s championship in 2013, or the women’s U19s in 2015? As stated in a letter from Gaza sports clubs to UEFA president Michel Platini, we must not“reward Israel for its violent repression of Palestinian rights”.
Platini has cruelly stated that the 2013 tournament will “be a beautiful celebration of football that, once again, will bring people together”. But by allowing Israel to host it, UEFA is legitimising Israel’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed to take place in Israel.
I call on all those who spoke out for my release and the release of the Palestinian hunger strikers, to once again show their commitment to justice and equality by insisting that UEFA move their competitions away from Israel.
The cultural and sporting boycott and other forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) were vital in the fall of the South African apartheid regime, and similar initiatives will be vital to ending Israeli apartheid.
Mahmoud Sarsak
a) Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis turned 23 on Sept 10. He is goalkeeper for Al Amry in Ramallah, West Bank. Detained Feb 20, currently in Ofer prison. Reported to have been tortured by Israeli General Security Services, held in stress positions for prolonged periods and subjected to extreme temperatures.
b) Mohammed Saedy Ibrahim Nemer, aged 22, married with one child, plays for Al Amry, on loan to Al Khader. Detained Feb 18, held in Ofer prison but moved early Sept to Remon Prison. Also reported to have been tortured.  .
Israeli Apartheid – a quick guide
We often hear that there is no discrimination in Israel because Palestinian citizens can vote. Some football teams have Arab players. There has even been an Arab Supreme Court judge.
This is true, but it masks an inherently discriminatory system in which most Palestinians cannot hope to be equal citizens in ‘the Jewish state’. Any Jew in the world can claim citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return and Citizenship Law, while Arabs forced to flee their homes from 1947 onwards are refused their UN-sanctioned Right of Return.
Inside Israel (within the pre-1967 Green Line)
The very existence of Israeli Palestinians is regarded as a threat to the state. Racist public discourse constantly bemoans the Palestinian birthrate and pushes for ‘Judaisation’ of the Galilee, the Negev, etc. The domestic secret service Shin Bet has said it will “thwart” peaceful and legal efforts to challenge the ‘Jewish’ nature of the state.
There are more than 30 main laws that discriminate, directly or indirectly, against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Since 2009 the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu has initiated many more.
It is illegal for citizens to live with a spouse who comes from the West Bank or Gaza. Backing the law, which in practice applies almost exclusively to Palestinians, Israel’s High Court said: “human rights are not a prescription for national suicide”.
In 70 percent of Israeli towns, residency is controlled by admissions committees that filter out those deemed ‘unsuitable’ for the community’s ‘social fabric’. Their role is enshrined in law for 46 percent of communities inIsrael, under legislation passed in 2011.
Various elements of Israel’s land regime mean that Palestinian citizens are blocked from purchasing or leasing land in around 80 percent of the country.
More than 700 Jewish communities have been established in Israel since 1948. The equivalent number for Palestinian citizens is seven, all in the Negev where Bedouin communities have been uprooted from their ancestral homes.
An estimated 90,000 Palestinian citizens live in dozens of ‘unrecognised villages’, many of which are in theNegev and face the prospect of total demolition.
In the Occupied Territories
Israel strips East Jerusalem’s Palestinians of residency status for what EU Heads of Mission called “demographic” reasons. Mayor Nir Barkat openly believes in ensuring a Jewish majority in the city.
Israel’s regime in the West Bank – including the 120+ illegal settlements – has been described by Human Rights Watch as a “two-tier system” where Palestinians face “systematic discrimination”.
In 2011 alone, Israel demolished 620 Palestinian-owned structures in the occupied West Bank. The EU has said this is part of a policy of  “forced transfer of the native population”.
Amnesty International calls Israel’s control of West Bank water resources “discriminatory”, with Palestinians restricted to 20 percent of the water from the main underground aquifer.
Israel blocks movement of goods and people between the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as part of what is officially described as a “separation policy”.
In March 2012 the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged Israel to end “segregation” inside the Green Line and “policies and practices of racial segregation and apartheid” in the OccupiedPalestinian Territory.
For more detail see a report by Adalah, The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.