ANOTHER ACT OF SOLIDARITY ON THE SPORT’S FIELD

It is inspiring to see an athlete who cares more about the world than their own ambitions. And it is stunning that so many people are saying that an NFL player this thoughtful and selfless is somehow a “bad” role model, in a league so rife with scandal from the owner’s box to the locker room.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick answers questions at a news conference on Friday, August 26, 2016. (AP Photo / Ben Margot)

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick answers questions at a news conference on Friday, August 26, 2016. (AP Photo / Ben Margot)

America Needs to Listen to What Colin Kaepernick Is Actually Trying to Say

Too many people are talking about patriotism and etiquette instead of reckoning with the substance of his critique.

#Celtics ~~ THE SAGA CONTINUES

Glasgow Celtic fans have launched a fundraiser to match any fine that Europe’s ruling football body, UEFA, will give the Scottish club for an expression of Palestine solidarity at a recent game against the Israeli team Hapoel Beer Sheva.

UEFA has announced that it has opened disciplinary proceedings against Celtic for display of an “illicit banner.” The “illicit banner” is a reference to Palestinian flags waved by Celtic supporters last week.

Fans hold up Palestine flags during Glasgow Celtic’s match against an Israeli football team on 17 August. (Russell Cheyne/ Reuters)

Fans hold up Palestine flags during Glasgow Celtic’s match against an Israeli football team on 17 August. (Russell Cheyne/ Reuters)

 

Celtic fans defy threat by hugging Palestine tighter

Glasgow Celtic fans have launched a fundraiser to match any fine that Europe’s ruling football body, UEFA, will give the Scottish club for an expression of Palestine solidarity at a recent game against the Israeli team Hapoel Beer Sheva.

UEFA has announced that it has opened disciplinary proceedings against Celtic for display of an “illicit banner.” The “illicit banner” is a reference to Palestinian flags waved by Celtic supporters last week.

The fundraising campaign has been set up by the Green Brigade, a Celtic fan group, which has pledged to put part of the money towards setting up and sustaining a youth soccer team in the occupied West Bank.

Another part of the proceeds will go to the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, MAP.

The Green Brigade “ultras” were largely behind a solidarity action at a Champions League against Hapoel Beer Sheva match in Celtic Park, the Glasgow club’s home ground, last week. Celtic won the game by five goals to two.

Supporting Palestine

The money raised by the Green Brigade will not actually go towards paying any fine imposed by UEFA. Rather, it will be used to support projects in Palestine.

Green Brigade has described UEFA’s disciplinary proceedings as “petty and politically partisan.”

It set the objective of raising £15,000 (about $20,000) to form and sustain a football team, Aida Celtic, based in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp.

The target of £15,000 is based on a previous fine UEFA handed out to the club after another display of Palestine solidarity in 2014.

By Monday, the Green Brigade had already raised more than three times the initial £15,000 target, according to the fundraising page.

Celtic fans have previously raised funds for Aida camp. A youth delegation from the camp toured Scotland earlier this summer.

The only football pitch in the camp was built by the Lajee Cultural Center in Aida. Its coordinator, Salah Ajarma, has welcomed the initiative and pledged to call the team Aida Celtic in recognition of the show of support from Celtic fans.

“It will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colors of our friends,” Ajarma was quoted as saying by the Green Brigade group. “Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in Aida.”

The funds raised will provide equipment, team uniforms and cover travel costs to allow the camp to enter a team in the Bethlehem Youth League. It will also pay for an annual Aida Celtic football tournament of teams from refugee camps across the West Bank.

Sense of history

UEFA bans the display of symbols deemed political at football games.

Celtic has strong connections to the Irish community in Glasgow. The repeated displays of solidarity reflect the affinity between Irish people and Palestinians as both have experienced colonization and occupation.

“There is a strong sense of history among that community, even though it’s now third, fourth and fifth generation Irish,” Scottish historian Tom Devine told Al Jazeera. “The situation in Palestine is a classic example of land that is being taken from people who lived there for generations. It chimes in with the course of Irish history.”

In a statement following last week’s game, the Green Brigade explained that its action sought to challenge the normalization of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

“From our work with grassroots Palestinian groups in the West Bank and the refugee camps of Bethlehem, we know the positive impact international solidarity has on those living in the open prisons of the occupied territories,” the Green Brigade stated.

“We also know that their suffering cannot be ignored by the international community and last night’s actions also sought to raise awareness of the boycott, divest, sanctions (BDS) campaign which seeks to challenge the normalization of the Israeli occupation.”

Since the action last week the story has gone viral on social media with Palestinians using the hashtag #thankscelticfans to show their appreciation for the display.

In Ramallah, the crest of the club was projected onto a building over the weekend.

Celtic will play the return tie in Israel on Tuesday.

TOON OF TODAY ~~ CELTICS MATCH THE FINE FOR PALESTINE

Image by Carlos Latuff

Match the Fine for Palestine

Match the Fine for Palestine

#matchthefineforpalestine

We, the Green Brigade, are the passionate Ultra fans of Celtic Football Club, Scotland’s most famous and successful football team. At the Champions League match with Hapoel Beer Sheva on 17 August 2016, the Green Brigade and fans throughout Celtic Park flew the flag for Palestine. This act of solidarity has earned our club respect and acclaim throughout the world. It has also attracted a disciplinary charge from UEFA, which deems the Palestinian flag to be an ‘illicit banner’

In response to this petty and politically partisan act by European football’s governing body, we are determined to make a positive contribution to the game and today launch a campaign to #matchthefineforpalestine. We aim to raise £75,000 which will be split equally between Medical Aid Palestine (MAP) and the Lajee Centre, a Palestinian cultural centre in Aida Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem. From our members’ experiences as volunteers in Palestine we know the huge importance of both organisations’ work and have developed close contacts with them.

MAP is a UK-based charity which delivers health and medical care to Palestinians worst affected by conflict, occupation and displacement. Working in partnership with local health care providers and hospitals, MAP provides vital public health and emergency response services. This includes training and funding a team of Palestinian surgeons and medics to treat and operate on those affected by the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip.

MAP has publicly thanked the Celtic support and all who have donated for their support. You can read their statement and find out more about their incredible work on their website: http://www.map-uk.org/home/homepage (their statement is available here:http://www.map-uk.org/news/archive/post/43…r-palestinians).
All funds raised for Medical Aid Palestine will go to mending broken limbs in Gaza and other vitally important projects in the Occupied Territories and Palestinian refugee camps.

Aida is one of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank and has for 66 years played temporary home to Palestinians forcibly expelled from their homes in Hebron and Jerusalem. Its residents live in the shadow of Israel’s apartheid wall, cut off from social and economic opportunities by the wall and neighbouring illegal settlements and military checkpoints.

For the young people of Aida, the Lajee Centre in the heart of the camp offers hope and an escape from the realities of life under Israeli occupation. Its programme of arts, culture and sporting activities are a lifeline for its impoverished and oppressed people.

Last year, the Centre built Aida’s only football pitch. Residents had previously played on recreation ground that has now been stolen by the wall. Within months of opening, the new pitch was severely damaged by tear gas canisters fired onto it by the Israeli military. It is now protected by metal netting.

Funds raised will provide a much needed boost to this fantastic project and will allow the Lajee Centre to extend its arts, dance and football programmes. As a token of their appreciation, the Centre have committed to setting up and sustaining the camp’s first ever football club and to name it Aida Celtic.

Aida Celtic will enter the Bethlehem Youth League at the start of 2017 and will host a tournament for teams from all of the West Bank’s refugee camps in Spring next year. Your generosity will also allow the Centre to buy a minibus for use in transporting Aida Celtic to matches and its other groups around Palestine.

Salah Ajarma, the Lajee Centre’s Coordinator told us the importance Aida Celtic will have for residents of the camp: “it will mean so much to our young people to be part of an official team, to have boots and strips and to represent the camp wearing the colours of our friends. Aida Celtic will be a source of pride for all in Aida”.

You can hear more from Aida’s young people and the volunteers at the Lajee Centre here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdm09DOieHc

We have been overwhelmed by the early response to this appeal and have set a new target of £75,000. Any money raised above this sum will continue to be split on an equal basis between MAP and the Lajee Centre, and will go some way to mending the broken limbs and damaged lives of the displaced and deprived people of Palestine.

At the end of the fundraising drive we will present representatives of both organisations with a cheque for their share in Glasgow.

Let’s #matchthefineforpalestine and show the footballing establishment the true spirit of the game.

OLYMPIC IMAGES ~~ ISRAEL’S PRIVATE GAMES

While is  celebrating closing ceremony Israel continues the murdering games of airstrikes

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A new milestone: BDS at the Olympics

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Islam El Shehaby refuses to shake Or Sasson's hand. (Photo: Getty images)

Islam El Shehaby refuses to shake Or Sasson’s hand. (Photo: Getty images)

“I have no problem with Jewish people or any other religion or different beliefs. But for personal reasons, you can’t ask me to shake the hand of anyone from this state, especially in front of the whole world.” These words, spoken by an individual who has just engaged in a gesture of support for the Palestinian people, are a standard response to the accusation of anti-Semitism which is routinely hurled at pro-justice activists.

The necessary distinction made between the “Jewish people” and the Israeli state is one Israel itself seeks to erase, as it strives to deflect all criticism of its policies, blaming it on anti-Jewish hatred instead. As such, these words do not in themselves establish new grounds, but a new approach to solidarity. Yet as Egyptian judoka Islam El-Shehaby uttered them last week in Brazil, they signified a new milestone: the sports boycott had arrived at the 2016 Olympic Games.

“Shaking the hand of your opponent is not an obligation written in the judo rules. It happens between friends and he’s not my friend,” El Shehaby explained, in the fallout from his action, which resulted in his dismissal from the games, for “poor sportsmanship.”

One day before El-Shehaby’s refusal to shake the hand of the Israeli Olympian he had just competed with, another judoka, Saudi Joud Fahmy, had withdrawn from the competition, in order not to have to compete against an Israeli athlete, should she win and advance to the next round.

And yet two days earlier, the Lebanese team had refused to let Israeli athletes ride on the same bus that had picked them up first, on its way to the opening ceremony. The Lebanese athletes persistently blocked the door, preventing the Israelis from getting onto the bus. As a result, the International Olympic Committee had to send in a separate bus for the Israelis.

While the Olympics are without a doubt an athletic competition, they are also, and to an equal degree, about the countries that send these athletes to the games. At the end of the day, and at the end of the games, we have a countdown of medals by country. And even as the Games are said to be about nations coming together, they are really yet another venue for pitting nations against each other. When any athlete competes, their country and their country’s flag is displayed as prominently as their own name. The winner’s national anthem is played during the medal ceremony, and all are expected to show their respect to that country. It is no surprise that the formidable gold medalist Gabby Douglas has been pilloried by her compatriots for her refusal to place her hand on her heart during the US national anthem, (even though she was otherwise very respectful), and one of the most iconic political images in Olympics history remains the raised Black Power fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Of course then, the snubbing by Lebanese, Egyptian, and Saudi athletes of members of the Israeli delegation is a political act. And of course, Israel has complained that these athletes “are bringing their respective countries’ ongoing conflict with Israel to the Rio games.”

The actions of these athletes are in keeping with the Palestinian call for global solidarity in the form of BDS, including the sports boycott of Israel. A sports boycott is an individual gesture with the greater immediate negative consequences suffered by the person engaging in it, as they will likely be disqualified from further competition. Yet the Arab athletes who refused to normalize with the Israelis have been criticized as violating “etiquette” and “the Olympic spirit.” Which drives one to wonder, is this yet another venue where Israeli exceptionalism wins, as the violent, racist state is left off the hook, not held accountable for its assault on Palestinian athletes?

Over the recent years, Israel has prevented Olympics-bound Palestinian team chiefs from leaving the country. It had restricted their freedom of movement, making it basically impossible for them to practice in adequate facilities, and it has shot at the ankles of Palestinian soccer players. Where was the criticism when these crimes were committed? Two years ago, an international campaign to ban Israel from FIFA, because of its human rights violations, had failed to pressure the international organization into censoring that country.

When no official organization is willing to hold Israel accountable, individuals can do so. The snubbing by some athletes of the Israeli delegation is a noble gesture in a political arena, and it is incumbent on us to appreciate it for what it is: a refusal to normalize with a country that bombs young boys playing on the beach, prevents young swimmers from reaching a pool, and prohibits Olympic hopefuls in Gaza from training with their compatriots in the West Bank. We then can surely appreciate the exquisite irony of the separate buses at the Olympic village for the delegation from a country that builds separate roads for its Jewish citizens, transporting them to their Jewish settlements in illegally occupied territories.

While the Olympics athletes were competing in Rio, another game was being played halfway around the world with an overt political message as well: we will not be cowered into “civility” towards an apartheid state. In Glasgow, Scotland, fans of Scotland’s Celtic FC had organized an event to “Fly the Flag for Palestine, for Celtic, for Justice,” during a game against the Israeli team Hapoel Beer Sheva.  The Facebook page of the event is clear about its understanding of the political reality of Israel, as the organizers explain that the display of flags would be to “invoke our democratic rights to display our opposition to Israeli apartheid, settler-colonialism and countless massacres of the Palestinian people.”

The fans had been warned by UEFA that they could face fines or the closing down of part of their stadium if they flew the Palestinian flag. But, as John Wight writes, “Celtic supporters are typically among the most politically aware and conscious of any demographic in society. For them Celtic is more than just another football club it is a political and social institution, one that has always stood and must continue to stand for justice in the face of injustice, racism, oppression, and against apartheid wherever and whenever it arises.”

Around the world, the Palestinian flag—almost like the kuffiyeh—has taken on a dimension beyond nationalism to signify progressive politics, a collective stand against systemic violence, and anti-colonialism everywhere. And as the game began, Palestinian flags appeared everywhere in the stands. A sea of Palestinian flags greeted the Israeli team in defiance of UEFA rules, and at the risk of the Celtic FC being penalized. Yes, flying the flag was without a doubt an expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people. But it was also a rejection of the system behind the oppression of the Palestinian people; a rejection of apartheid, colonialism and racism. The display of hundreds of Palestinian flags at the Celtic FC game showed an understanding of shared experiences of discrimination, disenfranchisement, dispossession, and a rejection of the Zionist narrative. Every flag that flew in that stadium ripped at Israel’s projection of normalcy and its paper-thin veneer of “democracy.” And the media carried the news around the globe, amplifying the gesture.

Beyond the boycott of consumer products in grocery stores, BDS has so far dealt a major blow to Israel’s image. Artists continue to cancel scheduled concerts in Tel Aviv, academic associations are voting to boycott complicit Israeli institutions, churches are screening their portfolios to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s illegal practices, and the recent events in Scotland and at the 2016 Olympics are the principled athletes’ way of saying: we do not normalize with the representatives of a pariah state. Before these gestures get spun into anti-Semitic incidents by Zionist hasbara, it is incumbent upon BDS activists and organizers to explain the context of the snubbing, the defiance, and the refusal to engage in “good sportsmanship” with a country that violates the most basic human rights of an entire people.

IN PHOTOS ~~ PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY IN THE FOOTBALL STADIUM

Celtic fans were warned not to raise the Palestine flag when they played an Israeli team. So they raised a thousand flags.

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Celtic fans ignore threats of fine and show support for Palestine as they play the Israeli team Beer Sheva.

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Carlos Latuff commented on the above ….

I dunno much about the Celtics, but this demonstration deserves all my respect.

IN TOONS ~~ WELCOME TO RIO

Images by Carlos Latuff (Direct from Rio)

The Police welcome protesters

The Police welcome protesters

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Brazil  wins its first medal in the Olympics for shooting...Black and poor people!

Brazil wins its first medal in the Olympics for shooting…Black and poor people!

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President Michel Temer lights the torch

President Michel Temer lights the torch

And the real winner is ……

Let's get the Olympics started!!!

Let’s get the Olympics started!!!

 

ISRAEL AND PALESTINE AGREE: KEEP POLITICS OUT OF SOCCER

“Keep sports and politics separate” morphs into code for ‘just shut up and play.”

Palestinian national soccer team players. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Palestinian national soccer team players. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Israel and Palestine Agree: Keep Politics Out of Soccer

Dave Zirin

We have before us a point of agreement between Netanyahu’s Israel and the militarily vivisected area of land at times referred to as the Palestinian territories: the idea that sports and politics should not mix. Tragically—not unlike words such as “life,” “liberty,” and that whole “pursuing happiness” thing—the phrase means far less as it journeys from abstraction to reality. Israeli Football Association Chairman Ofer Eini and Chief Executive Rotem Kamer traveled to Zurich, Switzerland, last week to meet with reptilian FIFA chief (and self-described women’s soccer “godfather”) Sepp Blatter. Their mission? To change a meeting agenda item. The Palestinian Football Authority is scheduled to propose having Israel banned as a FIFA member country at the May 29 meeting of the organization’s global congress. Eini and Kamer want to get that proposal and all debate on the subject removed, with Eini describing the vote as “a flagrant move that seeks to mix politics with sport—something that is completely contrary to FIFA’s vision.” (For brevity’s sake, we will leave aside unpacking how “not mixing politics with sport” has about as much in common with “FIFA’s vision” as a KFC bucket of extra crispy has with “PETA’s vision.”)

Then there is Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Authority. Rajoub says that he is pushing this proposal for the same reason that Israel is trying to prevent it from coming forward. “What I am trying to do is separate completely football and politics,” said Rajoub in an interview with Middle East Eye. “Sport is a tool to bridge gaps, to build bridges with all people all over the world.”

Rajoub wants Israel sanctioned because he believes that the travel restrictions and checkpoints, imposed by the Israeli government on the Palestinian Territories—not to mention the militarized separation of the West Bank and Gaza—has made the development of Palestinian soccer nearly impossible (this despite theirrecent historic qualification for the 2015 Asian Cup). Rajoub also plans on citing the detention and mistreatment of Palestinian national players by the Israeli Defense Forces, as well as the recent comments by Beitar Jerusalem coach Guy Levi, who said on the radio last month that their team would “never” sign an Arab player.

“The Israelis are enjoying the status afforded by being part of FIFA, while depriving a neighbouring administration of their rights to play football,” said Rajoub. “For years we have asked confederations in Asia and Europe to interfere and stop the suffering of Palestinian footballers…. When that didn’t work, we decided to go directly to FIFA’s general assembly.”

The PA would need 75 percent of the 209 global associations, which is unlikely, but if it passes, Israel, in the words of Kamer, would see “all its international activities…come to a halt,” It would also be an isolating public relations nightmare for Netanyahu’s already beleaguered government. Just as the prime minister has been trying to get the stink of a highly racialized re-election campaign off his body, he has been under fire for the treatment by Israeli troops of Ethiopian Jews staging their own unprecedented #BlackLivesMatter protests against state violence. Israel and Netanyahu have also been waging a furious public relations campaign against the accusations of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that they are an apartheid country not unlike South Africa. If FIFA suspends Israel, it would become the first country banned by the soccer federation since—yikes!—apartheid South Africa.

Both sides want to keep sports and politics separate, which makes this a fascinating look at what people mean when they make that kind of a plea. In sports it is very common to hear this sentiment from owners, media, and fans but it is rarely if ever used to critique the hyper-militarization of sporting events or the use of public funds to build stadiums (or, in a recently exposed synthesis, the use of public funds to celebrate the military). In other words, it is not sports and politics that they want to keep separate but sports and a certain kind of politics. “Keep sports and politics separate” morphs into code for ‘just shut up and play.'”

In this case, the Israeli Football Association is saying, “Do not use sports as a way to argue for statehood. Sports is not the place for that kind of rhetoric.” The Palestinian FA is saying, “We can’t compete because the politics of the Israeli occupation makes developing soccer a near-impossibility.” This is a very tough argument for the Israeli FA to win. If sports and politics were truly kept separate, then the Palestinian Football Authority would be able to travel freely, receive foreign visitors, and enter international tournaments without the fear of not being able to show up. As I’ve argued here many times, attacking the ability of Palestinian soccer to develop is also about attacking fun, play, and hope. While the Palestinian FA has facts on their side, no observer expects them to win 75 percent of the vote. But if Blatter even prevents this from even being raised on May 29, it would be an ugly gesture from an ugly individual. FIFA is hardly a moral force in this world, but soccer certainly can be. It is the closest thing we have to a united global obsession that links every country. FIFA’s sole organizational obligation is to make sure that everyone has a chance to play. What worries Netanyahu is that discussing this issue in soccer then becomes like pulling a thread on a sweater. If soccer is warped by occupation, then what about education, healthcare, or basic staples of civil society? That’s a question the Israeli FA is now scrambling to see unasked.

 

Written FOR

70 YEARS AFTER THE LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ SOME ISRAELIS STILL HAVE ‘RESPECT’ FOR RACISM

Never Again! ~~ Unless They Are Palestinians!! 
(Click on underlined link)

Does the number mean anything today? (FROM)

Does the number mean anything today? (FROM)

The coach of Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem football team has said that he won’t bring on an Arab player out of respect for his club’s racist fans.

Players for Beitar Jerusalem, seen in yellow and black jerseys at a recent match against Maccabi Haifa, won’t have an Arab teammate any time soon, coach promises. (Henk Vogel/Flickr)

Players for Beitar Jerusalem, seen in yellow and black jerseys at a recent match against Maccabi Haifa, won’t have an Arab teammate any time soon, coach promises. (Henk Vogel/Flickr)

No Arab players need apply to Israeli football team, coach says

The coach of Israel’s Beitar Jerusalem football team has said that he won’t bring on an Arab player out of respect for his club’s racist fans.

“I don’t think it’s the right time. It would cause tensions and create much greater damage,” Guy Levi told Israel’s 102FM radio, according to Ynet.

Levi said that he didn’t think there were any Palestinian citizens of Israel who would play for his team.

“Even if there were a player who fit in professionally, I would not bring him in,” Levi said, “because it would create unnecessary tensions.”

While racism is endemic in Israeli football, Beitar is particularly notorious for the violence and hatred of its fans who have habitually rampaged in the streets chanting “Death to the Arabs” and anti-Muslim slurs.

Asked if he didn’t think bringing in an Arab player would help change the racist culture of the fans, Levi replied: “Let the education minister change the culture and not ask us to change the culture of a people that is centuries old.”

Levi said his job was to “coach the team, not to educate anyone.”

He then praised the club’s fans, which he called by their nickname “La Familia”: “I met La Familia recently, excellent people and fantastic fans. I respect the people who support my team.”

Six Israelis arrested for last summer’s abduction and lynching of Palestinian teenagerMuhammad Abu Khudair in eastern occupied Jerusalem were all reportedly members of “La Familia,” and would therefore have regularly been exposed to racist incitement.

Appeasing racists

In 2013, Beitar managers angered fans by bringing on two Muslim players from Chechnya.

Club manager Eli Cohen tried to calm them at the time by saying that “There’s a difference … between a European Muslim and an Arab Muslim.”

Ahmed Tibi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a member of Israel’s parliament, condemned Levi’s statements.

“This is the kind of thing that encourages racism and hatred in Israeli society in general and in Israeli football in particular,” Tibi said.

Tibi noted that the international football federation FIFA would take a keen interest as it already monitors racism in the Israeli league.

International pressure

FIFA and its European counterpart UEFA have long been under pressure to sanction or suspend Israel over pervasive racism.

But while other countries have suffered sanctions for racism, Israel has so far been given impunity.

Despite the pervasive racism, there are some Arab players on predominantly Jewish teams and Jewish players on predominantly Arab teams in the Israeli league.

With thanks to David Sheen for spotting this story.

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As the title of this post says, it’s only SOME Israelis that are involved …

There are many others who are not (Click on link)

IN ISRAEL ~~ A REAL PEACE PROCESS ON THE SOCCER FIELD

IN ISRAEL ~~ A REAL PEACE PROCESS ON THE SOCCER FIELD

Two soccer academies — one from the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa and the other from the Jewish neighborhood of Katamon — partnered last month to create Team of Equals, a joint team bringing together soccer enthusiasts across the national divide.

The children running slaloms through Hapoel Katamon’s soccer field in south Jerusalem would be indistinguishable from one another, were it not for the blue and white T-shirts setting apart Arab from Jew. Read more: In Jerusalem, kids get a kick out of coexistence |  There IS HOPE for the future

The children running slaloms through Hapoel Katamon’s soccer field in south Jerusalem would be indistinguishable from one another, were it not for the blue and white T-shirts setting apart Arab from Jew.
There IS HOPE for the future

In Jerusalem, kids get a kick out of coexistence

Soccer can bring Arabs, Jews together rather than drive them apart, the initiators of a new binational children’s team believe

Two soccer academies — one from the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa and the other from the Jewish neighborhood of Katamon — partnered last month to create Team of Equals, a joint team bringing together soccer enthusiasts across the national divide.

Incorporating roughly 100 children aged 9-12, the new team is supported by The New Israel Fund through its program “Kicking Out Racism and Violence.” According to a press statement released by NIF, the initiative’s goal is to “introduce Jewish children from West Jerusalem to Arab children from East Jerusalem in order to combat the division and hostility between them and advance a shared life in the city.”

Whether in Hebrew or Arabic, the children almost invariably said they rooted for Spanish club FC Barcelona and idolized its Argentinian forward Lionel Messi.

Children playing on Team of Equals practice soccer in Jerusalem, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: courtesy/Yossi Zamir)

Children playing on Team of Equals practice soccer in Jerusalem, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: courtesy/Yossi Zamir)

“I’ve been going to Hapoel Katamon soccer matches since I was three months old,” said third-grader Omri Tal-Gershkowitz, adding he liked the noise and excitement of the game. “I hope more children join so we can integrate Jews and Arabs.”

Ahmad Moussa Subhi, a sixth-grader from Beit Safafa, said he joined the team to meet new friends. He said language was no problem in communicating with his Jewish teammates, since he picked up Hebrew watching soccer and Israeli films on TV.

“I like running and the sporting spirit,” he explained.

Sixth-grader Ahmad Moussa Subhi of Beit Safafa, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel) Read more: In Jerusalem, kids get a kick out of coexistence | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/in-jerusalem-kids-get-a-kick-out-of-coexistence/#ixzz3X5reQNXo  Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

Sixth-grader Ahmad Moussa Subhi of Beit Safafa, March 19, 2015 (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Creating a binational team is far from simplein Israel’s capital. Beitar Jerusalem, the city’s largest team, is notorious for its fans’ anti-Arab chants. The Israeli Football Association fined the team NIS 40,000 ($10,000) in February after fans shouted racist slurs and spat in the direction of Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shemona forward Ahmad Abed during a home game in Teddy Stadium.

But Hapoel Katamon, a fan-owned club created in 2007, is meant to symbolize something completely different, said Shai Aharon, formerly the team’s star forward, who retired in 2014 to become its professional manager.

“From day one Hapoel Katamon stands for anti-racism and anti-violence,” Aharon told The Times of Israel. “All of our programs are based on mutual respect, values and community; things that are more important to us than achievements on the field.”

Team of Equals was Aharon’s brainchild, born following an arson attack against a bilingual school in Jerusalem last November.

“The attack stressed the sense that something must be done, some sort of corrective experience,” Aharon said. For him, nothing could be more natural than getting the Katamon children to play with “the children across the street.”

“Everyone will tell you that violence in sports is ugly and bad; the question is what can be done to solve the problem. The trick is to be part of the solution,” he said. “All we want to do, on our turf, is to make soccer like any other kind of leisure activity, like cinema or the theater, one you can take your wife and children to and feel comfortable.”

Itzik Shanan, director of communications at the New Israel Fund, said his organization has been working to combat racism in soccer for over a decade, both by monitoring matches and writing reports on racist incidents, and by initiating educational activities such as Kicking Out Racism and Violence. NIF’s partnership with Hapoel Katamon has been ongoing for over three years, he noted, boosted by the club’s outlook on equality and partnership as values.

“This sight is moving not only for someone working on these matters at the Fund, but also as a Jerusalemite, who lives here and wants his children to remain here,” Shanan told The Times of Israel as he watched the children practice passing. “Observe the level of cooperation, understanding and fairness taking place here.”

Children at this young age are less infused with racial and political biases than adults, allowing true teamsmanship to blossom, he added. “They come from a very genuine, innocent place. I believe that adds a lot to the potential of this collaboration,” he said.

For Salman Ammar, head of Beit Safafa’s soccer academy and a former player with Hapoel Jerusalem, endorsing the initiative was only natural. He had played in a Jewish-majority team his entire career and now sends his children to the bilingual school in Jerusalem.

“There’s nothing like sports and competitiveness to bring people together,” he said. “The idea is that Arab children and Jewish children get to know each other and realize they can live together. It’s as simple as that.”

IN PHOTOS ~~ 5K GAZA RUN

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On Saturday morning, March 28th, the sky over Prospect Park in Brooklyn was leaden, the temperature was more appropriate to January than March, and it seemed to get worse as the hours passed.  However, that did not stop a spirited group of about 600 participants which included every race, ethnicity, and age from gathering to run, or walk, a 5K loop in the park. The event was organized by UNRWA USA in order to raise money to provide mental health services for the traumatized children of Gaza.  Buoyed only by the comradery and love for the children of Gaza, the runners took off at about 9:30 AM with the swifter among them crossing the finish line fairly shortly thereafter.  The walkers returned much later. 

The original goal was for the Brooklyn runners to raise about $50,000 but the amount collected far exceeded that.  $103,000 was raised and money is still coming in showing great support for this cause.  Races like this one have been organized by UNRWA USA in cities throughout the country.  

There was much elation among the participants because the event was so successful and because everyone felt good about being able to do something to help.  But at the same time it is very disturbing to recognize that with all the wealth in the world a UN agency has to create the equivalent of a school ‘bake sale’ to raise money to attempt to heal some of the scars that Israel inflicted on the children of Gaza last summer, destroying their bodies and their homes and murdering their families.  Also, nothing is getting better.  According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2014 more civilians were murdered on the West Bank and in Gaza then at any time since 1967. 

So, while the UNRWA  USA events are very important and should continue because they raise money and help galvanize the many people in the Palestine justice community we all have to do more.  For now, Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) remains our most potent tool.

Photos © by Bud Korotzer

Commentary by Chippy Dee

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Some of the 'older' folks called this event the 5K 'Schlep'

Some of the ‘older’ folks called this event the 5K ‘Shlep’🙂

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#FergusonOctober COMES TO MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Tory Russell, who has been on the ground in Ferguson from the start, said, “What were saying is No Justice, No Peace. You can’t go on with life as usual until justice is served. We are fighting all across St. Louis and this is not a game to us.”

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#FergusonOctober Comes to Monday Night Football

Black lives matter

“Rams Fans Know Black Lives Matter On and Off the Field” (Photo: Benjamin Boyd)

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The tradition is as longstanding as it is powerful: fans and even players disrupting sporting events in the name of a greater cause. Sometimes when this takes place, it’s iconic, other times it’s forgotten. This is usually dependent on the power and breadth of the movements off the field that animate these extraordinary actions.

We saw it most famously perhaps when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists at the 1968 Olympics. It helped change the world when the people of Australia and New Zealand fans stormed the grounds when Apartheid South Africa’s storied Springbok rugby team took the field. It continues today when people protest the Israeli basketball tour of the NBA preseason in the shadow of the Gaza war or when NFL players in solidarity with the family of Michael Brown raise their hands as they leave the tunnel.

That tradition continued last night when, as a part of #FergusonOctober, fifty people in the upper deck of the St. Louis Rams-San Francisco 49ers game unfurled a banner saying “Black Lives Matter On And Off The Field” and held a protest right in the middle of Monday Night Football.

An NFL stadium is a place of constant security, surveillance and inspection. Getting inside the White House with a knife seems like an easier task than entering an NFL arena for a protest. Yet in St. Louis, they did it and sent a strong message that this was not a time for games.

Stadium protester Shannon Wilson said, “We chanted in protest to tell the world that Rams fans know that black lives matter. Some Rams fans who sat in front of us ignored us at first. When our cries for our lives grew louder, some men began to dance as if to imitate monkeys, and shouted, verbatim, ‘Shut the f*** up you monkeys.’ I guess some Rams fans don’t know that Black lives matter.”

Charles Modiano, who helped organize the action, said:

Sorry to inconvenience the 3rd quarter, but the wild cheering of African-American athletes who can run fast, and the death and disrespect of Mike Brown simply cannot be separated from each other. Black lives must matter on AND off the field. We witnessed many hateful, hostile, and nearly violent responses from fans inside and outside the stadium. But we witnessed many Rams fans – including many white fans — who joined our protest in solidarity after initial hesitance. It’s almost like they needed permission to show their justifiable outrage. Last week the St. Louis Symphony protesters asked ‘What side are you on, my friends. That’s the question. There are six witnesses, no police incident report, still no arrest, and Mike Browns in every town. This is real basic. There can be no fence-sitting here. Dismantling the Blue Wall of Silence also includes ending white walls of silence.

Thousands were protesting at St. Louis University, Walmart, at the Ferguson police Department, and other places. And that was just one day.

As one stadium protester who requested anonymity told me, “Tonight was a major success. Our message was clear – black lives matter and that means that police violence is an issue no one can ignore, even during Monday night football. Our movement is growing every day and while ESPN chose not to air our major action, we know that many in our country stand with us. We are waiting for our leaders to act.”

Yes, it’s true that ESPN ignored the happenings in the stands. But it was picked up by mainstream channels like The Sporting News and SB Nation as well as the highly trafficked rebel sports site Deadspin.

At a rally this weekend, Montague Simmons, from the Organization for Black Struggle, told a crowd: “They didn’t value Black lives then, they don’t value Black lives now…. If this moment is gonna be all that it can be, we got to make the cost of Black life too high for them to take it.” Actions like last night are a critical part of that process.

Protestor Darnell Moore said, “While waking around the stadium with several dozen others chanting ‘Mike Brown’ and ‘Hands Up Don’t Shoot’ some fans willfully ignored us or shouted irately because their game was interrupted.”

This was a brave action that went down last night. As long as some people in the United States cannot escape the fear of police violence, the escapism of sports is a bubble well worth popping.

Tory Russell, who has been on the ground in Ferguson from the start, said, “What were saying is No Justice, No Peace. You can’t go on with life as usual until justice is served. We are fighting all across St. Louis and this is not a game to us.”

IN PHOTOS ~~ APARTHEID AND WAR ARE NOT GAMES! BOYCOTT ISRAEL ON THE COURTS!!

When activists arrived at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to protest a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces fundraiser that was coupled with an exhibition game between the Nets and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, the police were waiting with a message of their own. As the night unfolded, this message spoke volumes. Protesters would not be allowed on the expansive plaza that unfolds from the front of the Barclays Center all the way to the Atlantic Yards subway entrance. Instead, they would have to be in a fenced-off pen on the narrow strip of sidewalk to the side of the arena. Yes, an outdoor space built with public funds was deemed a privatized, no-free-speech zone, enforced by armed public employees, otherwise known as the police.

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‘Israel’s War On Gaza Is Not A Game’: Scenes From the NBA Preseason Protest

PALESTINIANS RISE TO NEW HEIGHTS VIA SOCCER

We are seeing right now in Brazil the ways in which the glories of soccer are being used as a cover to displace people from their homes and crush popular resistance. In Gaza and the West Bank, we are seeing the opposite: the ways in which the hypnotic flair of the beautiful game can make an oppressed people ready to face another day.

But let the last word go to my friend Sami, who lives in Gaza. He said to me “It’s like those words of your poet who just died, Maya Angelou, her words that we see written on the walls that surround us: ‘And still we rise.’”

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‘And Still We Rise’: Palestinian Soccer Stands Tall

Palestinian soccer fans

Palestinians celebrate after their national soccer team defeated the Philippines in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup final in Gaza City. (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)

When we speak of the great “droughts” in sports, our minds drift toward baseball’s Chicago Cubs, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and hockey’s star-crossed Toronto Maple Leafs. Yet there has never been a more harrowing athletic drought—rife with pain, pathos and perseverance—quite like that of the Palestinian national soccer team. This is a national team without a recognized nation to call home; a national team that has never qualified for a major international tournament; a national team that, like its people, struggles to be seen. That drought, eighty-six years in the making, is now over.

Founded in 1928, the Palestinian national soccer team has for the first time won the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup. Following its 1-0 victory over the Philippines, the Palestinian team will now play in the Asian Cup 2015, qualifying for a major international tournament for the first time in its history.

The Palestinian footballers have accomplished this despite unfathomable roadblocks the likes of which tower over anything faced by the Cubs, Browns or even the Sacramento Kings. The Palestinian team has had to confront a lack of resources, poverty, isolation, but above all else, obstacle after obstacle imposed upon their development by the state of Israel. The national team has been crippled for decades by the violent targeting of soccer players on both the Olympic and national teams by the Israeli Defense Forces. In addition, the restriction of movement, the checkpoints, the inability to practice because players are detained, have made being a part of the Palestinian national team, as one player said to me, “a risk, a burden and a blessing.”

In the face of all of these restrictions, any success achieved by the national team is more than just an inspiration for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is sustenance.

When the Philippines fell to Palestine, it was watched by thousands of people in Gaza City, who gathered together to watch the match. Movie screens were erected on the beach and drums were beaten in rhythm with the contest. When Palestinian striker Ashraf Al Fawaghra scored the winning goal on a free kick, it was fireworks, not bombs, that lit the night sky. The Reuters news service, as published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretzquoted Adel Waleed, a 45-year-old teacher who watched the game with his children. Waleed said, “It is not the World Cup, but our happiness feels like we won the World Cup.”

Coach Jamal Mahmoud, who by all counts was masterful throughout the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, understood that this was more than a milestone sports victory: it was an advance in the project to make the Palestinian people visible to the world.

Mahmoud described the ascension to the Asian Cup as “a platform for the country.“ He also said, “This is very important to all Palestine. We want to send a message to the world that we want sports and peace in Palestine. We can do more things if we have peace in Palestine. It is very important for us to go to the Asian Cup.” The New York Times, in a stirring article by James Montague, quoted Mahmoud saying, “All the people in Palestine will watch and will be happy if we win…. the world will see the Palestinian people. This is very important.”

We are seeing right now in Brazil the ways in which the glories of soccer are being used as a cover to displace people from their homes and crush popular resistance. In Gaza and the West Bank, we are seeing the opposite: the ways in which the hypnotic flair of the beautiful game can make an oppressed people ready to face another day.

But let the last word go to my friend Sami, who lives in Gaza. He said to me “It’s like those words of your poet who just died, Maya Angelou, her words that we see written on the walls that surround us: ‘And still we rise.’”

RACING FOR FREEDOM THROUGH THE WALLS OF PALESTINE

Graffiti transformed the lower part of the wall into a spray paint script: “More bridges, fewer walls”; “Make hummus not walls” and, “In my previous life, I was the Berlin Wall. The beer was better there.” The wall’s humor and wit dulled my sadness. I ran on.
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She Runs: The author warms up in Bethlehem before the race.

PHILLIP SMITH
She Runs: The author warms up in Bethlehem before the race.

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My Race Through Walls in Palestine Marathon

Journalist Discovers West Bank Race Is ‘Run for Freedom’

Race Day: As many as 3,200 runners took part in the second annual Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem on April 11.

PHILLIP SMITH
Race Day: As many as 3,200 runners took part in the second annual Palestine Marathon in Bethlehem on April 11.

By Tania Hass FOR

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“Getting out of Jerusalem isn’t tough,” said Tiviet Nguyen, the Vietnamese Israeli who sat behind me on the crowded bus full of Palestinian men. “The challenge is getting back in. But there’s a whole industry of taxis taking Israelis back from the West Bank. We’ll be fine.”

Like me, Nguyen and her husband, Moshe Saraf, were headed to Bethlehem to participate in the second annual Palestine Marathon. Unlike me — I’m a Canadian tourist — they are Israelis, and it’s illegal for them to be there without a permit. But since Nguyen is involved with an organization that links Israelis and Palestinians, she’s familiar with the trip home.

I, on the other hand, was a little nervous about our destination. This was my first time in the West Bank. I’d been to Israel before, but this would be the first time I’d be seeing the separation barrier. Safety was also on my mind. I swallowed my fear, and asked Nguyen about her thoughts on peace.

“Peace begins on a ground level,” she said.

“If the people’s mentality changes,” Saraf added, “the government’s motives won’t matter.”

“You know,” Nguyen said, “just being here is a political declaration.”

I had made the trip so that I could witness and report what I saw. But as a Jewish journalist, the task was a little loaded. I was there to understand those on the other side of the wall.

My journey started three weeks earlier, when I joined a press trip to run the half at the Jerusalem Marathon. We toured the country and ate incredible food. Then we strapped on our sneakers and ran the hilly course, which passed Israeli highlights like the Knesset, the Zion Gate and Mount Scopus. More than 25,000 runners from 54 nations participated. Many of them raised funds for projects and charities. During my 13-miles race, I met runners from many different backgrounds, including a settler, Christians and Orthodox Jewish women. But I didn’t meet any Palestinian or Palestinian-Israeli runners. I felt like I was missing part of the region’s running story. So here I was, set to run the same distance. This time, I’d be the minority in unfamiliar territory.

The first Palestine Marathon launched last year, weeks after the United Nations Relief and Works Agency canceled the Gaza Marathon when Hamas banned women from running. In 2013, 650 runners participated. By the time I collected my registration package in April, 3,200 runners were expected.

Days before the race, news agencies reported on the Gaza-based Olympian who was barred from participating. The Olympian was among a group of runners denied travel permits out of the Hamas-ruled territory by Israel. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization because of the hundreds of Israelis killed by its attacks. As a result, most of the population cannot travel beyond Gaza’s borders.

It’s restrictions like those that led a Danish aid worker to come up with the marathon idea. “The idea came to me one day, as I was waiting in a checkpoint. Palestinians’ inability to move was what struck me the most,” said marathon co-founder Signe Fischer, who works for the Danish foreign ministry. She also co-founded the Right to Movement organization.

Fischer teamed up with Palestinian organizations and municipalities and created the first marathon with a focus on free movement for all people.

In an ironic turn of events last year, Fischer had to ask two Israelis to withdraw the night before the race. She and her co-organizers cited the Jewish runners’ safety as a concern. Israelis are not legally allowed in Palestinian-controlled areas without a special permit. Tears were shed as Fischer said, “It hurts to call someone and say you can’t run…. Now I know what it feels like to be an anti-Semite.”

A documentary film crew caught this scene and others leading up to last year’s race. I watched the film the night before the race, in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, in the shadow of the Church of the Nativity and the city’s only mosque. When the movie finished, runners scattered in the cool air to find warm beds. We were due back in the square — the race’s start and finish point — in a few hours. I needed to find Fadi Asiwat.

Asiwat was a 24-year old swimming coach and my home stay host. We met on a Facebook page for runners in East Jerusalem. When I posted to the page, asking about good places to stay, he offered a room. He was also running the half marathon the next morning.

As we drove to his home, Asiwat told me that before the wall, the drive to Bethlehem was less than 10 minutes. Twenty-five minutes into our ride, we crossed to East Jerusalem from the West Bank with a nod from the checkpoint guards. Asiwat said my fair skin and blue eyes probably helped us avoid a time-consuming check.

As we descended into the Jabal Al-Mukaber valley, Asiwat pointed out Jewish settlements and Arab villages facing each other on different sides of the hill. I asked if he had any Jewish friends. “I work with Jewish people at the pool where I lifeguard. I say hello to people on the street. We’re decent to each other,” he said. When I asked him if he’d mind if Israelis ran in the race, he was hesitant. “Yes, it’s about sports,” he said. “But every Palestinian has hurt in their heart. It would be hard.”

In my room, a fruit basket and a bowl of nuts awaited.

“Arab hospitality. You are always welcome,” Asiwat said, And with that, he wished me a good night.

The next morning, Manger Square was bursting with energy. Top 40 hits played loudly, as Danish girls in tank tops warmed up alongside women in hijabs. Young Palestinian men danced in a circle, shaking their shoulders in unison. Runners smoked cigarettes while stretching.

“Why are you here?” I asked the runners around me.

“It’s empowering to see so many women here,” said Niralee Shah, 24, an Indian woman who works at a technology company in Ramallah. “It’s really exciting.”

“The world sees us as terrorists, but we love peace, nature, animals,” said Musa Abo Sbaeh, 37, a social worker. “It’s also about freedom. I’ve never been to the sea. I don’t leave my house after 10 p.m. — I’m too scared of the Israeli police. So today I run for freedom.”

Soon all the runners were ushered to the starting area. A horn blasted. We took off. My motto for running the Jerusalem half marathon was “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch.” Applying the motto once again, I slipped into a gentle stride.

The route first ran through the Aida refugee camp, which was established around 1950 by Palestinians from the Jerusalem and Hebron areas. Today, Aida is home to more than 4,700 people. UNRWA reports that it is severely overcrowded.

It is here that I first came face to face with the wall. Israelis call it the “security fence” and say it has resulted in fewer suicide bomb attacks. Palestinians call it the “apartheid wall” because of the impact it has had on their day-to-day lives. Regardless of its name, it’s imposing. With 26 feet of gray concrete, its purpose is unequivocal: to keep people contained and controlled. As I rounded a corner, an even taller tower loomed. At its top, small dark openings were visible. They were just the right size for the tip of an automatic weapon to follow, aim and fire. Immediately I was hit with sadness. I understand the Israeli desire for freedom from attacks, but I also was beginning to understand what it’s like to live under the physical threat of violence — and restriction — every day. It fosters a climate of distrust.

Graffiti transformed the lower part of the wall into a spray paint script: “More bridges, fewer walls”; “Make hummus not walls” and, “In my previous life, I was the Berlin Wall. The beer was better there.” The wall’s humor and wit dulled my sadness. I ran on.

After a loop through the Aida camp, we took a long stretch along Hebron Road. Young boys trailed me on their bicycles, yelling, “Yalla! Yalla!” I ran past a donkey munching on hay, men drinking tea, and fields of olive and fig trees. Groups of children extended their arms for high-fives. In the South, we passed another refugee camp. Dheisheh was initially built as a temporary shelter during the 1948 war. Today, multiple generations know it as their only home.

The six mile mark was in al-Khader, where the wall divides portions of farmland. Farmers were left unable to access parts of their land without a permit. Protests are ongoing. During the run, Palestinian boy scouts handed out orange slices. I rounded the turning point and headed to the finish line. Once I crossed, I collected my olive wood medal and stood shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other runners.

“The race shouldn’t be political, it should be more about healthy bodies,” said Frank D’hondt, a Belgian who works for UN-Habitat, an urban planning agency. “With all the eating and smoking, poor health is becoming a problem here. Occupation affects your ability to reach your potential.”

I reflected on the race, stretching while inhaling the cigarette smoke. After watching some more celebratory dances, I headed home.

On the way back to Israeli territory, I followed Palestinian men and women weaving through metal detectors and turnstiles at the more extensive checkpoint. After a brief interview with an Israeli guard, I was on the bus back to Jerusalem.

Soon I’d be having Passover dinner with my cousins in Jerusalem. These are relatives who served in the Israel Defense Forces, who build houses with safe rooms. In a few days, we would be gathering around the table to tell the story of enslavement and freedom. Freedom would be on my mind. So would walls — for what they protect and what they conceal. It’s about my family on one side, and the people I met on the other. And my freedom to see it all with the worn-out soles of my sneakers.

Tania Haas is a freelance journalist travelling the world and reporting on what she sees (and eats). Her work has been featured in Bloomberg News, CTV News Channel, The New York Times and USA Today. 

 

 The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website.

 

ISRAELI OCCUPATION REACHES THE SOCCER STADIUMS

Sports represent escape, joy and community, and the Palestinian national soccer team, for a people without a recognized nation, is a source of tremendous pride. To attack the players is to attack the hope that the national team will ever truly have a home.

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After Latest Incident, Israel’s Future in FIFA Is Uncertain

Dave Zirin*

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Palestinian national team

The Palestinian national soccer team, a source of pride for many, has been under attack by the Israeli state. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

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Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. After being shot repeatedly, they were mauled by checkpoint dogs and then beaten. Ten bullets were put into Jawhar’s feet. Adam took one bullet in each foot. After being transferred from a hospital in Ramallah to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, they received the news that soccer would no longer be a part of their futures. (Israel’s border patrol maintains that the two young men were about to throw a bomb.)

This is only the latest instance of the targeting of Palestinian soccer players by the Israeli army and security forces. Death, injury or imprisonment has been a reality for several members of the Palestinian national team over the last five years. Just imagine if members of Spain’s top-flight World Cup team had been jailed, shot or killed by another country and imagine the international media outrage that would ensue. Imagine if prospective youth players for Brazil were shot in the feet by the military of another nation. But, tragically, these events along the checkpoints have received little attention on the sports page or beyond.

Much has been written about the psychological effect this kind of targeting has on the occupied territories. Sports represent escape, joy and community, and the Palestinian national soccer team, for a people without a recognized nation, is a source of tremendous pride. To attack the players is to attack the hope that the national team will ever truly have a home.

The Palestinian national football team, which formed in 1998, is currently ranked 144th in the world by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). They have never been higher than 115th. As Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril al-Rajoub commented bluntly, the problems are rooted in “the occupation’s insistence on destroying Palestinian sport.”

Over the last year, in response to this systematic targeting of Palestinian soccer, al-Rajoub has attempted to assemble forces to give Israel the ultimate sanction and, as he said, “demand the expulsion of Israel from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.” Al-Rajoub claims the support of Jordan, Qatar, Iran, Oman, Algiers and Tunisia in favor of this move, and promises more countries, with an opportunity at a regional March 14 meeting of Arab states, to organize more support. He has also pledged to make the resolution formal when all the member nations of FIFA meet in Brazil.

Qatar’s place in this, as host of the 2022 World Cup, deserves particular scrutiny. As the first Arab state to host the tournament, they are under fire for the hundreds of construction deaths of Nepalese workers occurring on their watch. As the volume on these concerns rises, Qatar needs all the support in FIFA that they can assemble. Whether they eventually see the path to that support as one that involves confronting or accommodating Israel, will be fascinating to see.

As for Sepp Blatter, he clearly recognizes that there is a problem in the treatment of Palestinian athletes by the Israeli state. Over the last year, he has sought to mediate this issue by convening a committee of Israeli and Palestinian authorities to see if they can come to some kind of agreement about easing the checkpoints and restrictions that keep Palestinian athletes from leaving (and trainers, consultants and coaches from entering) the West Bank and Gaza. Yet al-Rajoub sees no progress. As he said, “This is the way the Israelis are behaving and I see no sign that they have recharged their mental batteries. There is no change on the ground. We are a full FIFA member and have the same rights as all other members.”

The shooting into the feet of Jawhar and Adam has taken a delicate situation and made it an impossible one. Sporting institutions like FIFA and the IOC are always wary about drawing lines in the sand when it comes to the conduct of member nations. But the deliberate targeting of players is seen, even in the corridors of power, as impossible to ignore. As long as Israel subjects Palestinian athletes to detention and violence, their seat at the table of international sports will be never be short of precarious.

* Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming book “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil” (Haymarket)

 

Written FOR

ARE YOU NOW, WERE YOU EVER, ~~ AN ANTI- SEMITE?

Anelka urges English FA to drop race charge 

West Brom striker insists English Football Association wrongly interpreted meaning of ‘quenelle’ gesture. ‘I repeat, I am not anti-Semitic or racist,’ he says

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West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka called on the English Football Association on Wednesday to drop his racism charge after the leader of French Jewry insisted a goal-celebration gesture was not anti-Semitic.

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Full report HERE

GESTURES THAT ROCKED THE ZIOWORLD (OR DIDN’T)

Britain’s Football Association said Saturday it was considering punishing Anelka, who plays for the West Bromwich Albion soccer team, for performing, during a match, the quenelle – a quasi-Nazi salute which representatives of France’s Jewish community have termed anti-Semitic.
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The following courtesy of What Really Happened
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Some even whined when this garden gnome had his hand raised …
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But not a word was muttered when this guy did it ….
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Or this guy …
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Or when an entire nation did it … In the 1930s, American children were taught to use that salute to pledge allegiance to the US flag!
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So why all the fuss today?

BDS REACHES THE TENNIS COURT

Tunisian player refuses to play against an Israeli

Tennis: Malek Jaziri was asked to withdraw before his match against Amir Weintraub
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Tennis Stories

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Tennis: Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri has given a walkover against Israel’s Amir Weinstraub, as he was asked to do by the Tunisian Tennis Federation. The news was confirmed by Tunisia’s state agency.

Malek Jaziri was drawn to play Amir Weintraub in the Quarterfinal of ATP Challenger Tennis tournament in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. But he was sent an email by his country’s federation, which barred him from playing.

Tunisia’s state news agency says the national federation sent an email to Jaziri that stated “you are ordered not to play against the Israeli player.”

Muslim players have refused to play their Israeli opponents in many sports in the past.

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Source

 

START OF ISRAELI FOOTBALL SEASON HERALDS IN NEW ROUND OF RACISM

As Israeli football season opens, violent racist attacks on Palestinians return too

 by Ali Abunimah
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With the opening of the Israeli football season this week, violent and racist attacks by fans have returned.

In this video, released by Israeli police, supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem football club violently attacked Palestinian workers at a McDonald’s restaurant. According to Ynet:

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At the remand hearing, police representative Officer Shlomi Ben Dor said that “on their way to the (Beitar Jerusalem) practice field, a group of fans stopped at the McDonald’s. One of the employees, of Arab origin, stepped outside to clean the tables, as several of the fans started talking to him. Once they realized he was an Arab they started yelling ‘death to Arabs,’ ‘Muhammad the homo,’ and other slurs the mind cannot tolerate.”

Ben Dor added “they started attacking the Arab and later on, when he managed to escape into the restaurant, the suspects, accompanied by others who have not yet been arrested, started… throwing chairs into the restaurant. Undercover officers at the scene arrested the suspects.”

Ongoing rage over Muslim players

The day before, after a rally to mark the football season’s opening, some fans expressed their lingering rage over the hiring of two Muslim players by the club:

Around 3,000 fans attended what is usually a celebratory occasion and the vast majority cheered the depleted squad.

However, after the players returned to the dressing room, a group of fans swore, spat and threw rocks at goalkeeper Ariel Harush and midfielder Dario Fernandez, attacking them for their support of Chechen Muslims Dzhabrail Kadiyev and Zaur Sadayev last season.

Harush and Fernandez required a police escort to leave the complex, with the Argentinian seriously considering leaving the club due to the incident.

Long-standing problem of violence and racist incitement

Sadly such incidents are not exceptional. Last year, for example, a mob of Beitar fans was caught on video rampaging through a Jerusalem area shopping mall attacking Arab workers and shouting racist slurs.

Notwithstanding the arrests of suspects in the latest McDonald’s incident, Israeli police and football authorities have done little to clamp down on violence and racist incitement by fans, from whom the chant “Death to the Arabs” is frequently heard.

Even ESPN aired a 15-minute documentary – which can be watched online – about Beitar fans’ notorious racism.

The racism should also be seen in the broader context of widespread racism in Israeli society against Africans and Palestinians.

Moving forwards or backwards?

In recent months – with the hiring of the Chechen players, Beitar’s outgoing owner and chairman made some effort to control the racist outbursts of fans who insist Beitar must remain a purely Jewish club.

But now the problem, at least at Beitar, may get even worse, with a recent change of ownership which saw Russian tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak hand the club over to Eli Tabib.

Tabib, the former owner of the Hapoel Tel Aviv football club, currently faces charges of violently assaulting and kicking a minor outside his home and then destroying security camera footage of the alleged incident.

Writing in Haaretz, Moshe Boker observes:

The worst thing to happen to Beitar with the departure of Gaydamak and [chair Yitzhak] Kornfein is the absence of anyone who will fight the extremist and racist fans. After a long period during which Kornfein ostracized and pursued them, and many of them were arrested, the fans feel responsible for Tabib’s arrival. Everything Beitar tried to rebuild over the last six months has been destroyed.

The problem is more widespread than just Beitar, as Haaretz observed last year, “The anarchy and lack of police enforcement have turned Israeli soccer into a source of violence, racism and hatred, and has even started to attract dubious characters, who at times manage the teams.”

The New Israel Fund (NIF), a liberal Zionist charity, which monitors and campaigns against racism in football stadiums, said in a recent report that there had been “progress,” in some areas of fighting football racism but said that Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv fans are still responsible for most incidents.

There were 38 episodes of incitement against minorities this year, including 18 at Maccabi Tel Aviv and 15 at Beitar Jerusalem, according to the report. Last year’s figure was 35 and two years ago NIF reported forty nine. It also noted an increase in fans condemning violence and racist incitement.

“Israeli Rosa Parks”

Amid increased international attention, Maccabi Tel Aviv has launched an anti-racism campaign. In this video, club players appeal to fans to refrain from making ape noises when African players are on the field, and from calling Arab players “terrorists,” among other habitual slurs. 

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In May, Haaretz writer Tamir Cohen appealed to the club’s star player, Maharan Radi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, to become the “Israeli Rosa Parks” by quitting the club:

Maharan Radi should be a symbol. He needs to be the one who says, “Enough.” He needs to leave the pitch and refuse to sweat for fans who make up racist chants about his people.

Despite the persistent problems, Israeli soccer has faced no international sanctions, and Israel was notoriously awarded the hosting of this year’s UEFA Under 21’s tournament in face of considerable international protests and objections.

It promises to be a long, hot season, especially for any Palestinian workers who happen to be in the path of rampaging mobs of racist fans.

 

 

Written FOR

CLIFF RICHARD ~~ ROCK STAR PROMOTES PEACE ON THE TENNIS COURT

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A benefactor of the Freddie Krivine Foundation which has developed coexistence tennis programs for Jewish and Arab youth throughout Israel, Richard, an avid tennis player, contributed funds to help the foundation establish the Nazareth Tennis School.
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British rock star to promote Arab-Jewish tennis charity
By DAVID BRINN
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Cliff Richard won’t only be performing onstage when he arrives in Israel next month. He’ll also be making an appearance on the tennis courts.

A benefactor of the Freddie Krivine Foundation which has developed coexistence tennis programs for Jewish and Arab youth throughout Israel, Richard, an avid tennis player, contributed funds to help the foundation establish the Nazareth Tennis School.

Krivine, who was the president of the Israel Tennis Association until his death in 2005, aimed through the foundation to introduce Israeli Arab children to tennis, and through tennis to introduce Jewish and Arab children to each other. Every year the foundation runs inter-school tennis and games programs for Arab and Jewish children.

“I thought that the concept was fantastic so I decided to get involved,” said Richard. “I haven’t been back to visit to school since the beginning, so I’m very excited to take the opportunity while I’m here to see what’s been done and maybe hit some tennis balls with the kids.”

“It’s really a lovely idea, Arab and Jewish children playing together. And they actually play doubles together and need to rely on and trust each other. It bodes well for the future.”

 

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