Tag Archives: football

Palestinian Football Association demands FIFA suspend Israel FA

 THE PALESTINIAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION (PFA) FORMALLY SUBMITS A RESOLUTION TO FIFA DEMANDING THE SUSPENSION OF THE ISRAEL FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION (IFA) . 

Press Release by the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign.

On 20 March 2015 the PFA submitted its resolution to be considered at the 28-29 May FIFA Annual Congress in Zurich.  The full text has not yet been published, but it calls for the suspension of the IFA from FIFA until certain conditions are satisfied, including:

 

  • Players, staff and officials can move freely into, out of and within Palestine; football equipment can be imported without hindrance.
  • Football facilities can be developed in Palestine without hindrance.
  • Football clubs established in the illegal settlements in the West Bank are banned from playing in IFA competitions.
  • The IFA takes firm action to eliminate racist and apartheid practices from its own leagues.

 

These conditions address long-standing grievances.  The PFA has supported initiatives by FIFA over the last almost two years to address them.  Regrettably, the PFA’s attempts to work with the FIFA Task Force have been undermined by Israel and have come to naught.   As a result, strong pressure in the form of suspension of the IFA is needed to help bring about the necessary change.

A PFA report on signing the resolution is, in Arabic: http://www.pfa.ps/index.php/news/et7ad-news/1789-2015-03-20-18-38-46.html.

UEFA taking sides against the PFA?

A recent web report quotes UEFA’s Platini as advising the IFA to enlist diplomatic channels to thwart the PFA motion at the FIFA Congress.  Such actions would contravene FIFA’s Statutes on the independence of national football associations from the influence of third parties.  Surely Platini cannot recommend undermining one of football’s basic principles?

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4641433,00.html

Israeli repression.

Israel continues to perpetrate its devastating military occupation of Palestinian territories, to flout international law, disregard UN resolutions, kill and maim innocent civilians and imprison Palestinians without charge.  Full details on the impact on sports and football in particular are given in the PFA blog:Israeli Occupation Transgressions against Palestinian Sports.

The IFA to all extents and purposes is a State institution – it reports to the State Comptroller and is financed in part by the State.   A 2009 declaration in the Knesset clarifies that the PFA is an “organ of the State”.  Therefore it is complicit in the actions of the Israeli civil and military authorities and so breaches FIFA’s Statute 3, which prohibits racist actions punishable by suspension or expulsion.   However, regardless of such technicalities, FIFA has the moral duty to take a stand against Israeli repression.

South African precedent.

From 1964 to 1992 South African Football Association was excluded from FIFA membership.  Several prominent South African  leaders who experienced apartheid in South African including Archbishop Tutu state that Israeli apartheid is far worse than South African apartheid ever was and that Israel is guilty of far more serious crimes against humanity.

Leaders’ concerns.

The President of the Asian Football Confederation, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, recently declared his commitment to tackling the “illegal Israeli practices” hindering Palestinian soccer.   Frederic Kanoute and about 50 other prominent footballers had earlier expressed their concern over Israel’s hosting of the 2013 UEFA under 21 finals tournament, and he was joined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ken Loach and other leading humanitarians.   There were similar objections to Israel’s 2014 proposal for Jerusalem to be a host city for the 2020 Euro competition, which was rejected by the UEFA administration, partly due to our campaign’s intervention.

Red Card Israeli Racism campaign

For four years we have campaigned for the rights of Palestinian football.  We fully endorse the PFA’s proposal to suspend the IFA until certain important conditions have  been satisfied.  For further information see our website: Red Card Israeli Racism

Red Card Israeli Racism campaign

27 March 2015

YOUNG PALESTINIAN PLAYERS ATTACKED AS GLOBAL PETITION TELLS FIFA “SUSPEND ISRAEL”

 
Red card fifa Petition imageAs is so often the case, horrifying events overtake us as we are in the process of planning our campaigns. While Red Card Israeli Racism was setting up an international petition (see below) to support Palestinian calls for the Israeli FA to be suspended from FIFA, two young Palestinian players were badly injured by the Israeli military. At the same time play had to be suspended at the Faisal al-Husseini stadium because of tear gas fired by the same Israeli forces.
Johar Halabiyeh, 19, Player in Abu Dis Club. Shot by Israeli soldiers and assaulted by dogs on 31/1/2014

Johar Halabiyeh (left), 19, Player in Abu Dis Club. Shot by Israeli soldiers and assaulted by dogs on 31/1/2014

Pictures from xssportpal.blogspot
 
Johar.7
 
 
The Red Card campaign is developing a long-term strategy targeting Israel’s membership of international football bodies, at the Brazil FIFA World Cup, at next year’s UEFA competition (which has Israel playing Wales both at home and away), and beyond. The international petition is intended to serve as a rallying point for this long-term effort.
Please add your signature and pass this on by email, FB pages, Twitter etc.
 
INTERNATIONAL PETITION SAYS SUSPEND ISRAEL FROM FIFA
·       Campaigners back Palestinian pressure on FIFA
·       Two Palestinian footballers maimed by Israeli forces (Note 2)
 
Campaign group Red Card Israeli Racism has launched an international petition calling on world football’s governing body FIFA “to suspend membership of the Israeli FA until Israel respects the human rights of Palestinians and observes international law.”
The Red Card campaign drew support for its campaign against Israel hosting the 2012 UEFA under-21 championship from figures as diverse as filmmaker Ken Loach, Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu and footballing legend Eric Cantona.
Its new petition says Israeli state policies, implemented by its civil and military forces, deny Palestinians the right to play and compete, nationally and internationally.
 
“It is now time for sports initiatives to add their voice….[to]  commercial and cultural actions worldwide … demanding an end to Israel’s repressive policies,” says the petition text.
Most recent victims of Israeli policy are two young footballers shot by Israeli soldiers on their way home from training in the central West Bank on Jan 31. Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, have now been told ‘they are unlikely to play again’
Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril al-Rajoub cited the incident as evidence of Israel’s unsuitability for membership of FIFA. He has repeatedly threatened to call on the FIFA annual congress in Brazil in June to suspend the IFA.
 
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Note 1.  Petition
I call on FIFA to suspend membership of the Israeli FA until Israel respects the human rights of Palestinians and observes international law, thus enabling Palestinian footballers to play and compete nationally and internationally
Why?
Since 1967, Israel has maintained a brutal military occupation of Palestine, building illegal settlements and a separation wall on stolen land, despite condemnation by the UN and International Court of Justice. Within Israel, over fifty laws discriminate against its Palestinian citizens. When influential sports organizations say nothing in the face of an injustice of such magnitude they are complicit.
Commercial and cultural actions worldwide are increasingly demanding an end to Israel’s repressive policies.
It is now time for sports initiatives to add their voice.
The Israeli occupation specifically impacts on Palestinian football by restricting movement of players within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Gaza, and to take part in international competitions. Israel limits imports of vital sporting equipment. Players have been harassed, detained, imprisoned and killed.*
There is blatant well documented racism within Israeli football.** Players of Palestinian origin suffer insults from the terraces: Beitar Jerusalem football club is arguably worse than any in Europe with chants of ‘Death to Arabs’ and arson attacks. Any efforts made by the Israeli FA to stop this abuse have been ineffective.
In 2013 footballers like Eric Cantona, Frederic Kanoute and 50 other international players challenged UEFA’s decision to hold the Men’s U-21 tournament in Israel. Eminent human rights activists questioned how an organisation that clearly promotes anti-racism can place a major competition in an openly racist country? Yet UEFA still plans to hold the U-19 Women’s final there in 2015 and may consider Israel as a venue for preliminary matches in Euro 2020.
FIFA has recognized some Israeli abuses and created a Task Force aimed at facilitating the movement of players and equipment. But its success depends on the goodwill of the Israeli Defence Force.
When FIFA formally suspended the membership of South Africa FA from 1964 until 1992, its action contributed to an end to apartheid.
Therefore, this petition asks FIFA to follow this precedent and suspend Israel as it did South Africa until Israel respects the human rights of Palestinians and observes international law. The Israeli government must at some point take notice.
 
Note 2. Link to report on injured footballers
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

RED CARD ISRAELI RACISM CAMPAIGN TARGETS UEFA CONGRESS

PROTEST at UEFA’s Annual Congress in London on May 24
SUPPORT Mahmoud Sarsak’s UK tour in May-June 2013
PARTICIPATE in the Goals for Peace tournament on May 19
BUILD the campaign to Red Card Israeli Racism
image
The Red Card Israeli Racism campaign is escalating its activities as the June 5-18 dates for UEFA’s under-21 men’s football final in Israel draw near.
The London-based campaign is now part of a European coalition of groups working to expose the folly of staging a major competition in a state which shows contempt for the rights of Palestinian football players and supporters.  Beyond June, Red Card has the potential to develop into a long-term challenge to Israel ’s membership of UEFA – the overarching body for European football.
The June tournament will probably still go ahead, but the case against it has gained prominence over recent months.  Frederic Kanoute and 51 other leading professional players issued a statement deploring Israel ’s attacks on Gaza in November, saying they called into question holding the games in Israel . In January, a well publicised action at the UEFA offices in Nyon , Switzerland , forced UEFA president Michel Platini to give pro-Palestinian protesters a hearing after two years of turning a deaf ear to the campaign.
In March, the congress of the French trade union CGT-INRA passed a resolution contesting UEFA’s decision to stage the competition in Israel and a former French minister of sport, Marie-George Buffet, wrote to Platini calling on him to hold it elsewhere.
In the UK , football media are opening up space for discussion of the issues, such as this piece on the FootyMatters website, written by members of the student group Football Beyond Borders. It prompted a reaction from the Jewish Chronicle, insisting that UEFA would “stand firm” against our campaign.
FBB has held two well-attended public meetings in London to mobilise support for the campaign.
The Red Card petition now has 6,500 signatures, and rising.
The UK will become the focus of intense campaigning action as UEFA holds its annual congress in London on Friday May 24. A major demonstration is planned for the occasion.
The men’s and women’s Champions League finals will be taking place around the same time and Friends of al-Aqsa are organising a 16-plus anti-racist tournament in east London – Goals for Peace – for up to 20 six-a-side teams.
Mahmoud Sarsak, the national Palestinian team player whose release from unlawful detention we campaigned for last Spring, plans to be in England at that time as part of an extended European tour. He aims to visit Norway , Spain , France , Italy , the UK and Ireland between April and June, meeting players, officials, fans, politicians, journalists and activists.
The intended dates for the English leg of his tour are May 16-26, visiting Scotland until June 8 and moving on to Ireland before returning to his home in Gaza later in the month.
The campaign is working to build support for the tour through mainstream organisations such as FARE (Footballers Against Racism in Europe), Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card, trade unions and faith groups, as well as pro-Palestinian and human rights bodies.
Red Card Israeli Racism was established in London in 2011 by members of PSC, Friends of al-Aqsa and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods. It currently (March 2013) has a steering group representing those organisations but is inviting much wider participation to build a sporting boycott campaign alongside other BDS groups around Europe .
Contact: info@rcir.org.uk

TOP FOOTBALLERS CHALLENGE UEFA TOURNAMENT IN ISRAEL

A statement signed by 52  European football players has dramatically raised the profile of the campaign challenging European football’s governing body UEFA for staging its 2013 under-21 finals in Israel.

KANOUTENews of the statement, published on Friday November 30 on the website of former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute (pictured above), was picked up by the Guardian online and then by many other media worldwide (see references below).

The group of UK premier league footballers and players in other major European leagues said that holding Euro 2013 in Israel was tantamount to rewarding it for the assault on Gaza which killed 170 Palestinians in November, including boys playing football. Israeli aerial attacks also destroyed the Palestinian Paralympic Committee offices, along with a stadium and sports complex where the Palestine team prepared for the 2012 Olympics.

The Guardian story explained:

The signatories, who include Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Abou Diaby of Arsenal and five Newcastle players – Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté, Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba – also criticised Israel’s continued detention without charge or trial of two Palestinian footballers.

 Several former Premier League players have also signed the letter, including Didier Drogba and Frédéric Kanouté, both of whom now play in China. Players with QPR, Stoke, Blackburn and Ipswich are among the signatories along with footballers in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.

The statement roundly condemns the Israeli assault on Gaza, describing it as “yet another stain on the world’s conscience” and expresses “solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom”.

It then focuses on the destruction of a football stadium which the Israeli military said had previously been used by Hamas as a rocket launching site but which at the time of the bombing was not.

The statement had originally been signed by 62 players. Ten, including Drogba, dropped out, possibly due to Zionist pressure.

The statement was welcomed by the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign which has been working with activists around Europe to challenge the staging of the U-21 finals in Israel since UEFA announced its decision in early 2011.

Last Tuesday, ahead of the draw for the competition in Tel Aviv, the campaign circulated the text of a statement from a group of public figures including filmmaker Ken Loach saying:  “it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.”

Twenty-two British Members of Parliament  have signed a motion (EDM 640) in the House of Commons registering “with profound disapproval . . . 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.”

ACTION:

Call on your MP to sign EDM 640

Sign the petition calling on UEFA to move the Euro 2013 final away from Israel

Links to some of the extensive media coverage:

http://www.agencemediapalestine.fr/blog/2012/12/01/bonne-couverture-mediatique-de-lappel-de-footballeurs-en-soutien-a-gaza/

http://www.tdg.ch/monde/afrique/Les-footballeurs-ne-veulent-pas-d-un-Euro-en-Israel/story/28143281?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.saphirnews.com/Kanoute-Drogba-Menez-Mandanda-Des-stars-du-football-soutiennent-la-Palestine_a15800.html

http://www.insideworldfootball.biz/worldfootball/asia/11647-gaza-conflict-damages-vital-sporting-infrastructure.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/sport/football/article3616788.ece

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/news/9715577/Premier-League-players-call-on-Uefa-to-remove-Israel-as-European-U-21-hosts.html

http://www.france24.com/en/20121130-top-footballers-urge-rethink-israel-venue

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1246310/didier-drogba-among-stars-declaring-support-for-palestine?cc=5739

http://itisallaboutfootball.tumblr.com/post/36899657123/european-football-players-declare-support-to-palestine

http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/freddie-kanoute-is-joined-by-hazard-diaby-papiss-cisse-tiote-demba-ba-in-condemning-plans-to-hold-u21-euros-in-israel/

http://www.twtd.co.uk/ipswich-town-news/21988/ellington-amongst-players-in-israel-protest

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-299857-football-players-stand-in-solidarity-with-palestinians-amid-recent-israeli-aggression.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/01/sports/soccer/soccer-players-protest-european-under-21-championship-tournament-in-israel.html

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2012/11/30/footballers-sign-statement-protesting-israel-hosting-euro-u21-tournament-after/

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/football/israel-risky-hosts-for-under-21-euro-championships/story-e6frfg8x-1226527893532

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/30/footballers-u21-european-championship-israel

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/footballers-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-euro-u21

http://www.timesofisrael.com/soccer-players-protest-israel-hosting-uefa-under-21-tournament/

FOOTBALL STARS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINE

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.
FOOTBALL STARS RALLY IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINE
+ FREDERIC KANOUTE, MOUSSA SOW, DEMBA BA, JACQUES FATY SAY UEFA IS REWARDING ISRAEL FOR “ACTIONS CONTRARY TO SPORTING VALUES”
+ MPS AND OTHER EMINENT BRITS SAY ISRAEL MUST NOT HOST UEFA UNDER 21 FINALS
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.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1. ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF FRENCH LANGUAGE STATEMENT SIGNED BY :
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.
  2. THE STATEMENT IN FRENCH
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 .
 
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINIAN FOOTBALL
As football supporters we hear with concern an appeal from Mahmoud Sarsak,http://www.bdsmovement.net/2012/mahmoud-sarsak-uefa-appeal-9826 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.
Signed:
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

ERIC CANTONA JOINS CAMPAIGN TO FREE PALESTINIAN FOOTBALLER ON HUNGER STRIKE

A modest boycott campaign set up a year ago to challenge the awarding of UEFA’s under 21 football championship in 2013 to Israel, has successfully mobilised high profile support for Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, close to death after a long hunger strike in an Israeli jail.
Sarsak, 25, has been refusing food for almost three months in protest at his detention, without charge or trial, since July 2009.
Over just a few days, the Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign, working together with award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty, mobilised support for a letter berating European government and football bodies for ignoring Sarsak’s plight and allowing Israel to get away with persistent human rights abuses and violations of international law. By Tuesday the legendary Eric Cantona had come on board, along with the UK’s Show Racism the Red Card campaign and several respected patrons of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
A comprehensive news release sent to the media on Tuesday is reproduced below.
From the Red Card Israeli Apartheid CAMPAIGN
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – TUESDAY JUNE 12

ERIC CANTONA JOINS CAMPAIGN TO FREE PALESTINIAN FOOTBALLER ON HUNGER STRIKE
– Football legend Éric Cantona and world pro footballers association call for release of Mahmoud Sarsak, detained three years in Israel without charge or trial
– Footballer near death after 80+ days without eating, one of 308 Palestinian “administrative detainees”
– UEFA criticised for awarding Israel right to host 2013 Under-21 tournament
– Cantona, Show Racism the Red Card, Chomsky, Loach and others slam official silence over Israeli human rights abuses, noting contrast with condemnation of Euro 2012 host Ukraine
Leading sporting, cultural and academic figures, including football legend Éric Cantona, have thrown their weight behind a campaign in support of Mahmoud Sarsak, a Palestinian footballer from Gaza who is close to death after more than 80 days on hunger strike.
Sarsak, 25, was seized by Israeli authorities in July 2009 when he was a promising young star of the Palestinian national team attempting to travel to the occupied West Bank for a game.
The world professional footballers’ association  FIFPro said in a statement  Sarsak, who had lost about 30 kilos in weight, should be released from jail. He had been detained for three years without charge or trial. His family have not seen him since his initial arrest.
The organisation said it is “also very concerned about the situation of many other professional footballers in Palestine. . . .There are stories of other players who have been harassed, arrested or even killed.”
In a letter sent on Tuesday to UK Sports Minister Hugh Robertson and UEFA President Michel Platini, football legend Éric Cantona, the UK based Show Racism the Red Card campaign, MIT professor Noam Chomsky, John Dugard, Former Special UN Rapporteur on Palestine and film director Ken Loach, among others, called for the same concern to be shown over racism and human rights abuses in Israel as has been expressed over Poland and Ukraine, the Euro 2012 hosts.
They noted that human rights abuses and violations of international law occur daily in Israel, and ask: “why are these same (government and football) groups silent when Israel is to host the U.E.F.A. Under 21s competition in 2013?”
42 Gazan football clubs wrote a protest letter  to UEFA President Michel Platini  a year ago. They have received no reply.
Israeli jails house around 4,000 Palestinian political prisoners, violating Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer of occupied peoples (Palestinians), to the territory of the occupier (Israel). More than 300 are “administrative detainees” like Sarsak, held without charge or trial.
The letter concludes: “It is time to end Israel’s impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states”.

NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1.   Full text of letter addressed to Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, UEFA President Michel Platini and other European government and sporting bodies:
‘We are all shocked at the racist chanting at football matches in Poland and Ukraine where Euro 2012 is being played. Footballing bodies and politicians have been outspoken in their condemnation. Indeed some government officials are boycotting group stage matches in Ukraine because of perceived human rights abuses in that country.
So why are these same groups silent when Israel is to host the U.E.F.A. Under 21s competition in 2013? Racism, human rights abuses and gross violations of international law are daily occurrences in that country.
Israeli government ministers respond to mob attacks on black refugees by denouncing them as ‘infiltrators’ and calling for them to be imprisoned in military camps.
Israeli jails house around 4,000 Palestinian political prisoners, more than 300 of them “administrative detainees” held without charge or trial. One of these is a footballer from Gaza, Mahmoud Sarsak, aged 25. He has been imprisoned for nearly three years. No charge, no trial. In desperation, he has been on hunger strike for more than 80 days and is now close to death. He, and all victims of abuse by the Israeli state, need our support.
It is time to end Israel’s impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states.’
FULL LIST OF SIGNATORIES, SIGNING IN PERSONAL CAPACITY UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED:
Éric Cantona, actor and former footballer
Noam Chomsky, Professor MIT, USA
John Dugard, Former Special Rapporteur of UN on Palestine, South Africa
Trevor Griffiths, Writer, UK
Paul Laverty, Screenwriter, UK
Ken Loach, Filmmaker, UK
Michael Mansfield, QC, UK
Miriam Margolyes OBE, Actor, UK
John Pilger, Journalist, author, film maker, Australia
Show Racism the Red Card (http://www.theredcard.org/news/news-and-events?news=3410
Ahdaf Soueif, Writer, UK
2. Statement from the international federation of professional footballers
http://www.fifpro.org/news/news_details/1954
3. VIDEO: Mahmoud Sarsak’s mother speaks about her son, his imprisonment and his hunger strike
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhF3AUaKgX0
5.  Background information from human rights groups about Palestinian political prisoners 
http://mondoweiss.net/2012/05/israel-still-holds-1000s-of-political-prisoners-including-27-palestinian-members-of-parliament.html
6. Israel’s interior minister Eli Yishai denounces black victims of mob violence as “infiltrators” and says refugees should be imprisoned, “all of them without exception.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/31/israeli-minister-racial-tensions-infiltrators
7. Racist football fans on the rampage attack Palestinians in a shopping mall,http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/mar/23/israeli-football-fans-attack-palestinian-shoppers
8. UK and other European governments boycott games in Ukraine because of human rights concerns.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/07/euro-2012-boycott-ukraine-uk-government
9. Appeal from Sarsak’s father and brother, May 24
http://stopthewall.org/2012/05/24/appeal-save-life-mahmoud-sarsak

UK FOOTBALL FANS SHOW ISRAEL THE RED CARD FOR RACISM

Thousands of football supporters at three UK grounds heard the message “Show Israel the Red Card”  on Wednesday February 22, when campaigners handed out leaflets at UEFA under-21 matches at Middlesborough, Wrexham and Paisley.

Their call for Europe’s football governing body to withdraw the under-21 finals from Israel in 2013 attracted friendly attention from fans.

At Wrexham, a banner proclaimed the message “No to Israeli apartheid” and campaigners raised the cry: “Change the finals toWales”.

As part of the run-up to UEFA’s Annual Open Congress, due to be held in Istanbul on March 22, leaflets were delivered for Welsh manager Brian Flynn and the head of the Welsh Football Association Phil Pritchard.

“The Palestinian people are treated worse than black people were during South African apartheid or in the segregated southern states ofAmerica,” the leaflets said.

“We are urging all the European football associations to support the 42 Palestinian clubs in the Gaza Strip who have called on UEFA President Michel Platini not to reward Israel for its racist discrimination against Palestinians,” said Geoff Lee, UK coordinator of Red Card Israeli Apartheid.

In Middlesborough the campaign team included members of the Northumberland County UNISON trade union branch. Leaflets were snapped up by receptive fans, said Mick Bowman of Newcastle Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign began a year ago, after UEFA announced its decision to award Israel the 2013 under-21 finals. See here for a report on campaign action to date.