As UEFAâ€™s 2011 under-21 finals draw to a close in Denmark, the Palestinian sports community is demanding UEFA reverse its recent decision to stage the 2013 tournament in Israel.
In aÂ letter to UEFA President Michel Platini, football clubs, managers, players and other Palestinian sporting figures based in Gaza urge UEFA not to â€œreward Israel for its violent repression of Palestinian rightsâ€.
The letter reminds Platini that footballers Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshate were among over 1,400 victims of the Israeli assault on Gaza in winter 2008-09, when whole districts and the Rafah National Stadium were levelled. The UN fact finding mission into the assault accused Israel of deliberately targeting civilians and committing war crimes.
â€œPlatini publicly denounced Israel last September so we are shocked that UEFA is giving the honour of hosting an important tournament to a country that practices illegal occupation and apartheid. A new host nation must be selected,â€ said Haidar Eid, coordinator of the Red Card Israeli Apartheid campaign.
â€œGaza is still in ruins following the 2008-09 massacre and is the largest open air prison in the world as a result of the deadly and medieval siege imposed on it by Israel. By allowing Israel to host the 2013 under-21 tournament, UEFA is creating the impression that Israel is a country like any other and giving it the confidence to commit further atrocities,â€ added Eid.
In 2005, Palestinian civil society called for people of conscience to implement a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. Boycotts of South Africa, including sporting boycotts, played a major role in ending apartheid in South Africa. Israeli sports teams have increasingly faced demonstrations from human rights activists.
The letter comes as human rights activists prepare to launch Freedom Flotilla 2. A 2010 UN report strongly criticised Israel for boarding ships that were part of the first Freedom Flotilla while they were in international waters and killing nine activists.
â€œPeople of conscience from all over the world share the belief that it is time for Israeli oppression of Palestinian rights and the medieval siege of Gaza to be lifted. We are calling on UEFA to choose a new venue for the 2013 under-21 tournament,â€ said Eid.
Four Palestine national team players were prevented from leaving Gaza to play in Thursdayâ€™s Olympic qualifier against Bahrain that took place in the West Bank, according to fan site reports.
Notes to Editors
- The full letter and list of signatories is available atÂ http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/letter-to-platini-7377
- The letter to UEFA President Michel Platini has been signed by 42 Palestinian football clubs, and 37 managers, players and other notable Palestinian sporting figures.
- Last September, Michel Platini threatened to expel Israel from UEFA because of the restrictions on movement it imposes on Palestinian footballersÂ http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/news/middle-east/1551-platini-threatens-to-annul-israels-membership-of-uefa
- Four members of the Palestine national team were prevented from leaving Gaza to play in Thursdayâ€™s Olympic qualifier in the West Bank, according to fan site reports.
The four players were Â Mohammed Abu Dan, Anas El-Helu, Mohammed Al-Sadoody, and Alaa Attie.
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