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



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

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




































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.”


#FergusonOctober Comes to Monday Night Football

Black lives matter

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


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.”


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.


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


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.’”


‘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.’”


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.

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

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


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.

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


“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.



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.


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

Dave Zirin*


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)


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


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



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.


Full report HERE


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.
The following courtesy of What Really Happened
Some even whined when this garden gnome had his hand raised …
But not a word was muttered when this guy did it ….
Or this guy …
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!
So why all the fuss today?


Tunisian player refuses to play against an Israeli

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


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.





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

 by Ali Abunimah

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:



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. 



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


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.
British rock star to promote Arab-Jewish tennis charity
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.”



It’s a bit ironic to see a so-called centre for Peace bear the name of a war criminal. But despite that, the Australian Chapter of the Peres Center for Peace (oxymorons of oxymorons) is actually doing something to promote Peace in the Middle East through a joint programme of cooperation on the football field …
Here’s what it’s all about …

AFL Peace Team


Project Aim

This unique project unites Israeli and Palestinian

young men through Australian Football (AFL),

a sport foreign to most in the Middle East.

The project incorporates both AFL training and

moderated group dialogue, producing a

strong team that overcomes many barriers –

physical, emotional and language.

How It Works


In 2008 in cooperation with the Australian
Chapter of the Peres Center and in partnership
with Palestinian organization Al Quds Association for
Democracy and Dialogue, the first joint
Palestinian-Israeli AFL Peace Team was formed and
flew to Australia to compete in an international
 football competition. This team of men from all
over Israel and the West Bank aged 18-35 was
such a great success that a second Peace Team
was formed in 2011, including many of the same
players, as well as newcomers. After six months
of intensive training and group dialogue, the team
once again flew to Australia, spreading the message
of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation and dialogue
through sport, to show the world that such teamwork
is not only desirable but also possible. The team
continues to spread the message of cooperation
and AFL, meeting to train and keep the team morale
alive, as well as training boys from their own
communities through the Twinned Peace Sport Schools program.
AFL Peace Team Logo

 This project is supported by the Australian Chapter of the Peres Center for Peace


How a Tragic Soccer Riot May Have Revived the Egyptian Revolution
Dave Zirin 

There are no words for the horror that took place in Port Said, Egypt last week. A soccer match became a killing field, with at least seventy-four spectators dead, and as many as 1,000 injured. The visiting Al-Ahly team lost to Al-Masri, and what followed will stain the sport forever. Al-Masri fans rushed the field, attacking the Al-Ahly cheering section after Al-Masri’s 3-1 upset victory. People were stabbed and beaten, but the majority of deaths took place because of asphyxiation, as Al-Ahly fans were crushed against locked stadium doors. It was so unspeakably traumatic that beloved Al-Ahly star Mohamed Aboutreika, who famously revealed a “Sympathize with Gaza” shirt during the 2008 Israel bombardment, immediately announced his retirement after the match. A distraught Aboutreika said, “This is not football. This is a war and people are dying in front of us. There is no movement and no security and no ambulances. I call for the league to be canceled. This is a horrible situation, and today can never be forgotten.”

This carnage, however, has produced profoundly unexpected results. The shock of Port Said hasn’t produced a political coma but instead acted as a defibrillator, bringing a revolutionary impatience back to life. Instead of starting a wave of concern that “lawlessness” was spreading in post-revolutionary Egypt, the anger and sadness seem to be reviving the revolution. The Western media immediately used the shock of the tragedy to call for a crackdown on the hyper-intense fan clubs, the “ultras”. As the New York Times wrote, “The deadliest soccer riot anywhere in more than 15 years, it also illuminated the potential for savagery among the organized groups of die-hard fans known here as ultras who have added a volatile element to the street protests since Mr. Mubarak’s exit.”

Other Western observers, sympathetic to the revolution, feared with good cause that the riots would strengthen the hand of a military dictatorship slow to transfer power to civilian rule. But on the ground, a new reality quickly took shape. This might be news to the Times, but the reaction in Egypt has been rage at the military, fueled by a widespread belief that, either through benign neglect or malignant intent, the authorities let the killings happen.

The witness reports of the Port Said survivors are scandalous. They describe a situation where exits were blocked by military police. The stadium lights were turned off, adding to the sense of panic. Hundreds of riot police can be clearly seen in amateur videos, standing around and doing nothing, as if ordered to remain passive.

Every political sector has spoken out against the military police in Port Said. Abbas Mekhimar, head of the Parliament’s defense committee, said, “This is a complete crime. This is part of the scenario of fueling chaos against Egypt.” Diaa Salah of the Egyptian Football Federation was even more pointed, saying, “The government is getting back at the ultras. They are saying: ‘You protest against us, you want democracy and freedom. Here is a taste of your democracy and freedom.’ ”

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has set itself in opposition to the ultra clubs for much of the year, stated that “the lack of security in the Port Said stadium confirms that there is invisible planning that is behind this unjustified massacre. The authorities have been negligent.”

The Revolutionary Socialists of Egypt were more blunt, saying, “The clumsily hatched plot, which could not conceal the shameless complicity of the police, who stood watching the slaughter and killing for hours did not even attempt to protect the victims, carries only one message to the revolutionaries: the revolution must continue…. The ultras groups that joined the ranks of the revolution early on… are still proving every day that they are an integral part of our revolution. “

(See this blog post for video analysis inside the stadium that argues how authorities are to blame for Port Said.)

Chris Toensing, the Editor of The Middle East Report, said to me, “Indeed, many Egyptians consider the ultras uncouth. And some may also say that the real revolutionaries are demonstrating peacefully in Tahrir Square, rather than throwing rocks and Molotov Cocktails. But lots of Egyptian activists argue that in 2011—and maybe today as well—the ultras have been key protectors of the revolution, both physically and structurally, in the sense that they keep intense pressure on the state to listen to popular demands.”

The people also know that the presumed target of the soccer riot—the Al-Ahly ultras—after being a leading street fighting force during the revolution, have become a leading target of the military. The Al-Ahly ultras wear that target proudly, chanting at games, (I’m told this rhymes in Arabic):

Oh you MPs
You turned out to be more rotten than the Police
Raise the prison walls higher and higher
Tomorrow the revolution with lay them to waste
Oh brother, write on the cell wall
Junta rule is shameful and treasonous
Down Down with Junta rule!

Now not only are many Egyptians coming to the defense of the ultras but, remarkably, ultra groups from opposing clubs have pledged to join forces, seeing the attack on Al-Ahly as an attack on all of them. Their unity was sparked when the Al-Ahly ultras themselves released a statement where they didn’t go after Al-Masry but the military, proclaiming, “They want to punish us and execute us for our participation in the revolution against suppression.” The ultras then vowed a “new war in defense of the revolution.”

This proved to be more than just words. On Wednesday, February 1, the military leader Tantawi seemed blasé about the anguish, anger and accusations arising from Port Said, saying, “Egypt is going down the path we planned, We will continue down this path and we will get through this transition.”

On Thursday, protests against military inactivity in the Port Said stadium deaths exploded in Cairo, Suez and Port Said itself. The clashes also marked the one year anniversary of the Battle of the Camels, when Mubarak sent armed thugs riding into Tahrir Square on camels and ultras had their most shining moment, credited with incredible bravery standing in their charging path and forcing them out of the square.

This year, in Cairo, at least 10,000 protesters marched to the Interior Ministry building near Tahrir Square. The battle that followed according to Health Ministry official Adel Adawi, resulted in 388 protesters’ injuries.The flags unfurled were the ultra flags of traditional rivals, Al-Ahly and Zamalek.

But most significant were the thousands of Al-Masry fans who gathered in Port Said, demanding answers from police for their passivity during the stadium violence and why the doors of the stadium were closed.

The reemergence of the ultra clubs as a united force against the military regime should send shivers from Cairo to Washington, DC. Last year, as one Egyptian activist said to me, “Getting the ultras to work together in Tahrir might have been the toughest part about deposing Mubarak. They really hate each other. They would spit when saying the other club’s name.” He spoke to me about the need at times to physically force the ultras to stop squabbling and focus on the task of challenging Mubarak.

But after Port Said, it took no effort. An injury to one group of ultras was seen as an injury to all. As James Dorsey, who writes the indispensable blog The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer, wrote that the aftermath of Port Said has sparked “a reconciliation among once implacable foes while at the same time solidifying emerging fault lines in Egyptian society.”

Throughout the past year, as Dorsey writes, the ultras have fought together on numerous occasions, mostly at anti-military protests, in opposition to the Egyptian Football Association, or against the presence of the Israeli embassy. They bled and even died together even as they became more politically isolated by the military’s promise of an orderly and peaceful transfer of power to an elected parliament. Now the Port Said carnage has broken the ultras out of their isolation and raised the question openly about what it will really talk to see the military finally out of power. The prospect of united ultras, remarkably, challenges the politics of dead-end gradualism and brings to the forefront the prospect of dramatic change.

Zamalek winger Mahmoud Abdel-Razek also known as Shikabala, Egypt’s top player, said, “Despite the cruelty of what happened in Port Said, this disaster played a role in uniting the fans of all clubs. It might be a turning point in ending intolerance and hatred in Egyptian football. I will go to the Ahly club along with my teammates to offer our condolences to the families of Port Said martyrs. The fans of Ahly are my brothers. I hope Ahly and Zamalek fans can sit together in the stands without barriers.”

Al-Ahly midfielder Mohamed Barakat, has also spoken out, refusing to play ever again until there is true“retribution for those that were killed.”

There have been continuous efforts to marginalize the ultras. Now they are, unbelievably, on the center stage of history. The ultras have done nothing less than propel the Egyptian Revolution back into the Egyptian streets.


Written FOR


My new heroes are the people in the Occupy and Labor movements who gathered to protest on Super Bowl Sunday. It certainly didn’t make Sportscenter that night, but several hundred people gathered at the Indianapolis state house to stand up against the recent passage of the state’s “right to work” legislation and make clear that the fight was far from done.
The Heroes of Super Bowl Sunday
by Dave Zirin

I emerge from the echo-chamber of Super Bowl Sunday energized and armed with a new set of heroes and folk-tales to pass on to others. My hero on our great (near) secular national holiday wasn’t Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who one suspects would be going to Disney World whether he won or lost. It wasn’t the incredible looking Madonna, spotted backstage drinking her daughter’s stemcells, or M.I.A. with her  middle-finger-malfunction. It also wasn’t Clint Eastwood who made a commercial where I think he threatened to murder Detroit.

My new heroes are the people in the Occupy and Labor movements who gathered to protest on Super Bowl Sunday. It certainly didn’t make Sportscenter that night, but several hundred people gathered at the Indianapolis state house to stand up against the recent passage of the state’s “right to work” legislation and make clear that the fight was far from done.

They included representatives from the Indiana Occupy movement, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, union iron workers, as well as trade unionists from UNITE, and the Communication Workers of America. They came from Indianapolis, Bloomington, Anderson, and beyond. Their ranks included radical cheerleaders from Indiana University who chanted,  “Lies and tricks will not divide. Workers standing side by side….Union town through and through. You for me and me for you.”

My heroes include Randy, a member of the iron worker’s union who came with a delegation all the way from Wisconsin to speak at the rally.  Following his words, people chanted “From Tahrir Square to Wisconsin, We shall Fight we shall Win”. 

My heroes include people named Amy, Ben, Mike, Heath, Ed, April, Jacob, Jubin, Bill, and the tireless Tithi Bhattacharya who emailed me at day’s end, “Class solidarity does exist!”

All of these proud trade unionists and Occupy activists showed up even though the AFL-CIO explicitly instructed people not to protest on the day of the big game. They accepted the bullying line that the Super Bowl was not a day for politics. They accepted this even though a brutal anti-union ad played during the game for much of the country.

That’s why it’s so important that the people were a presence at this Woodstock for the 1%, leaving energized and excited about further forging connections between the Occupy and the Labor movements. After all, we don’t have $3 million for a 30 second ad. We just have the ability to gather and be heard.

As for the game itself, I think I’ll always remember the stirring words of Gisele Bundchen. For those who don’t know (and if you don’t, then more power to you) Bundchen is our world’s first billionaire Super Model. She’s also the spouse of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. In the aftermath of the game, she was recorded saying, “You’ve to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball. My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.” One player said after hearing her words, “It’s like knocking someone when they are down.”

Gisele comfortably carries the billionaire’s impatience with the great unwashed breathing her air, who in her mind, are the fools unable to catch her husband’s throws. But with her statement, I think we can see why so many people are overdosing on schadenfreude following the Patriots 21-17 loss to the Giants. For years, the Patriots have played with a sense of entitlement. They won three Super Bowls in Tom Brady’s first four seasons as a starter and since then, every year, they’ve played like it was their trophy that some other team was just borrowing. It’s an arrogance that has festered and worsened into a scabby crust that surrounds Brady and his coach Bill Belichick with each year of failure. They have become the Randolph and Mortimer Duke of the NFL, screaming after every season ending loss for the stock exchange to “Turn those machines back on!” Then there is Patriots owner Bob Kraft, and his owner’s suite mate Rush Limbaugh,with Limbaugh caught on camera forlornly picking his nose.

Seeing the arrogant and the entitled get knocked down a peg is always welcome. But in the real world it doesn’t mean a damn just because one arrogant and entitled owner’s box cheers, while another weeps. It happens because people around the country are standing up and saying, “Enough is enough.” In Indianapolis, it happened because people heroically dared to be heard on a day when everyone told them to just shut up and watch the game.

Written FOR


Having spent most of my life outside of the United States, I’ve never really been a fan of American Football, in fact, I don’t recall ever watching a Super Bowl game. But…. you can be sure I won’t be missing it this year.
Read the following to find out why 😉
The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the Super Bowl winner
Occupy the Super Bowl: Now More Than Just a Slogan.
Dave Zirin 
“Upsetting the Super Bowl— I couldn’t care less. This is about my life and my family.”   —Lou Feldman, IBEW local 668

The sheer volume of the Super Bowl is overpowering: the corporate branding, the sexist beer ads, the miasma of Madison Avenue–produced militarism, the two-hour pre-game show. But people in the labor and Occupy movements in Indiana are attempting to drown out the din with the help of a human microphone right at the front gates of Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Republican-led state legislature aims to pass a law this week that would make Indiana a “right-to-work” state. For those uninitiated in Orwellian doublespeak, the term “right-to-work” ranks with “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “Fair & Balanced” as a phrase of grotesque sophistry. In the reality-based community, “right-to-work” means smashing the state’s unions and making it harder for nonunion workplaces to get basic job protections. This has drawn peals of protest throughout the state, with the Occupy and labor movement front and center from small towns to Governor Mitch Daniels’s door at the State House. Daniels and friends timed this legislation with the Super Bowl. Whether that was simple arrogance or ill-timed idiocy, they made a reckless move. Now protests will be a part of the Super Bowl scenery in Indy.

The Super Bowl is perennially the Woodstock for the 1 percent: a Romneyesque cavalcade of private planes, private parties and private security. Combine that with this proposed legislation, and the people of Indiana will not let this orgy of excess go unoccupied. Just as the parties start a week in advance, so have the protests. More than 150 people—listed as seventy-five in USA Today, but I’ll go with eyewitness accounts—marched through last Saturday’s Super Bowl street fair in downtown Indianapolis with signs that read, “Occupy the Super Bowl,” “Fight the Lie” and “Workers United Will Prevail.” Occupy the Super Bowl has also become a T-shirt, posted for the world to see on the NBC Sports Blog.

The protests also promise to shed light on the reality of life for working families in the city of Indianapolis. Unemployment is at 13.3 percent, with unemployment for African-American families at 21 percent. Two of every five African-American families with a child under 5 live below the anemic poverty line. Such pain amidst the gloss of the Super Bowl and the prospect of right-to-work legislation is, for many, a catalyst to just do something.

April Burke, a former school teacher and member of a local Occupy chapter, said to me, “I see right-to-work for what it is: an attack on not only organized labor but on all working-class people.… Because strong unions set the bar for wages, RTW laws will effectively lower wages for all. Rushing the passage of RTW in the State of Indiana on the eve of the Super Bowl is an insult to the thousand of union members who built Lucas Stadium as well as the members of the National Football League Players Association who issued a statement condemning the RTW bill.”

As April mentioned, the NFLPA has spoken out strongly against the bill. When I interviewed Player Association president DeMaurice Smith last week, he said: 

When you look at proposed legislation in a place like Indiana that wants to call it something like ‘right-to-work,’ I mean, let’s just put the hammer on the nail. It’s untrue. This bill has nothing to do with a right to work. If folks in Indiana and that great legislature want to pass a bill that really is something called ‘right-to-work’ have a constitutional amendment that guarantees every citizen a job. That’s a right to work. What this is instead is a right to ensure that ordinary working citizens can’t get together as a team, can’t organize and can’t fight management on an even playing field. So don’t call it ‘right-to-work.’ If you want to have an intelligent discussion about what the bill is, call it what it is. Call it an anti-organizing bill. Fine… let’s cast a vote on whether or not ordinary workers can get together and represent themselves, and let’s have a real referendum.

But Governor Mitch Daniels, who was George W. Bush’s budget director, didn’t get this far by feeling shame or holding referendums. This is the same Mitch Daniels who said in 2006, “I’m not interested in changing any of it. Not the prevailing wage laws, and certainly not the right-to-work law. We can succeed in Indiana with the laws we have, respecting the rights of labor, and fair and free competition for everybody.” In other words, he’s that most original of creatures: a politician who lies.

If Daniels signs the bill before the big game, demonstrations sponsored by the AFL-CIO in partnership with the Occupy Movement will greet the 100,000 people who can afford the pilgrimage to Lucas Oil Field. The NFLPA, I’ve been told by sources, will also not be silent in the days to come. As Occupy protester Tithi Bhattacharya said to me, “If the bill becomes law this week then it is very important for all of us to protest this Sunday. We should show the 1 percent that the fate of Indiana cannot be decided with the swish of a pen by corporate politicians—the Super Bowl should be turned into a campaign for justice and jobs.”

Written FOR


Is McCarthyism finally as dead as the man himself?
I was totally bewildered this morning when I read the following obituary in the New York Times. It reports the death of a sportswriter for the US Communist Daily Worker, yet it is totally free of anti-Communism.
I don’t remember the name (some things did happen before I was born 😉 ) but a friend wrote me the following… the article is so free from anti-communism it leaves me slightly bewildered I remember collecting signatures, my mother did the collecting that threatened boycotting baseball … or remember my mother telling me this. The signatures were carried to Branch Rickey by Ben Davis and Pete Catchione and Paul Robeson so my story goes, but what is real and what is fantasy who knows …
The obit appears below, if it is an indication of a new trend, it is a most welcome one. Hopefully Islamophobia is next on the list to go.

Bill Mardo, Writer Who Pushed Baseball to Integrate, Dies at 88

Bill Mardo, a sportswriter for the Communist Party newspaper The Daily Worker who fought major league baseball’s color barrier in the 1940s when the mainstream American news media was largely silent on the subject, died Friday in Manhattan. He was 88.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, his companion, Ruth Ost, said.

In the years before the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson as the first black player in modern organized baseball, Mr. Mardo was a leading voice in a campaign by The Daily Worker against racism in the game, a battle it had begun in 1936 when Lester Rodney became its first sports editor.

Mr. Mardo, who joined The Daily Worker in 1942, oversaw its sports coverage, together with Nat Low, during World War II, when Mr. Rodney was in the Army. Mr. Mardo had a deferment, having lost vision in one eye from a childhood virus.

The Daily Worker asked fans to write to the New York City baseball teams urging them to sign Negro league players at a time when the major leagues had lost much of their talent to military service. A milestone in baseball history and the civil rights movement arrived in October 1945 when Robinson signed a contract with the Dodgers’ organization, having reached an agreement with Branch Rickey, the Dodger general manager, two months earlier.

Mr. Mardo covered Robinson’s first spring training, with the Dodgers’ Montreal Royals farm team in 1946, and wrote of the hostility toward him in parts of segregated Florida.

As Robinson was concluding a brilliant 1946 season, Mr. Mardo wrote that racism would be smashed by the arrival of black players, which, he said, “in one fell swoop does as much to arm and educate the American people against this monstrous lie as do all the pamphlets in the world.”

After Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers in 1947, Mr. Rodney and Mr. Mardo called on the owners of the other 15 teams in the majors to sign black players.

Rickey had not acknowledged being pressured by The Daily Worker. But in recounting the campaign to shatter baseball’s color bar, Arnold Rampersad wrote in “Jackie Robinson: A Biography” (1997) that “the most vigorous efforts came from the Communist press, including picketing, petitions and unrelenting pressure for about 10 years in The Daily Worker, notably from Lester Rodney and Bill Mardo.”

Mr. Mardo was born William Bloom in Manhattan on Oct. 24, 1923. His interest in left-wing politics arose when he read a copy of The Daily Worker as a teenager, and he became a member of the Communist Party. He changed his name to Mardo as a tribute to his sisters Marion and Doris when he began his career in journalism.

Apart from reporting on baseball, Mr. Mardo wrote a boxing column for The Daily Worker, “In This Corner.” He left the newspaper to work as a Washington reporter for the Soviet news agency Tass in the early 1950s. He later worked in direct-mail advertising.

His marriage in the 1950s ended in divorce, and he had no children.

In April 1997, Mr. Mardo and Mr. Rodney (who died in 2009) spoke at a symposium at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus marking the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers.

Mr. Mardo noted that Rickey had not signed blacks when he ran the St. Louis Cardinals for more than two decades and suggested it was not idealism but pressure from black sportswriters, trade unions and the Communist Party that persuaded him to sign Robinson.

“Where were you looking all those years, Mr. Rickey?” Mr. Mardo said. “Istanbul? The South Seas?”

But on April 10, 1947, when the Dodgers announced they were bringing up Robinson from Montreal, Mr. Mardo, sitting in the Ebbets Field press box, could only exult.

“There’s time tomorrow to remember that the good fight goes on,” he wrote for the next day’s Daily Worker. “But, for today, let’s just sit back and feel easy and warm. As that fellow in the press box said, ‘Robinson’s a Dodger’ — and it’s a great day, isn’t it?”


Such immense violence has been inflicted on Gaza, for so long. So much has been done to dehumanize the people living here, that we in the west have come to regard Palestinians in Gaza not as whole people, but as mere objects of pity; not as complex, thinking political beings, but as “recipients of humanitarian aid.”

‘Same as any other people’

By Jared Malsin

I’ve been critical in the past of feature reporting on Palestine that takes the form of “Palestinians + X” where X is anything other than violence. You see feature stories in the Western press Palestinian soccer teams, Palestinian musicians, basketball players, as if it were somehow remarkable that Palestinians engage in the full spectrum of human pursuits that people all over the world do. Sometimes these stories are couched in terms of “how remarkable these Palestinians are able to do [X activity] in spite of the occupation.” But sometimes not.

I tire of these features. I believe that these reports unintentionally and implicitly reinforce the racist expectation that Palestinians are extremists or inherently violent. So much time and journalistic energy is spent proving the tautological point that a certain group of people (Palestinians) are, in fact, human.

Well, I’m going to go against the grain of my own criticism today with this post, about a day of sports and art activities for kids staged in Gaza today. The reason I’m posting these photos is that, my spirits were personally lifted when I walked into Yarmouk stadium this afternoon to find kids running a relay race and teenagers painting murals in the late afternoon sun.

Such immense violence has been inflicted on Gaza, for so long. So much has been done to dehumanize the people living here, that we in the west have come to regard Palestinians in Gaza not as whole people, but as mere objects of pity; not as complex, thinking political beings, but as “recipients of humanitarian aid.”

Activities like today’s sports day do, in their own way, represent a non-trivial effort to overcome this dehumanization.

The games today also had an up-front political message. Banners were draped everywhere in the stadium proclaiming “No Gaza siege,” and “It’s our right to practice sports without [what] Israel imposes.”

The event was also a space to allow Palestinian youths to narrate their political circumstances. You can see in the photos below, what these young artists chose to depict was not all smiles and cheer: there are scenes of Israeli tanks crushing houses, Israeli soldiers aiming their guns at Palestinian children.

“It’s a message from the Palestinian people that we love life, and we have the right to practice sports the same as any other people,” said Ali Nazli, the head of the Al-Jazeera Sports Club in Gaza, which organized the event along with the British charity IF (International Friends).

The day’s activities included an attempt to break the world record for highest number of participants in a 12-hour-long relay race. The race was called “Gaza 100.” A simultaneous event was being held in London, to help raise awareness of the situation in Gaza, said Mahmoud Lubbad, the representative of IF in Gaza.

“These kids love life like all others all over the world,” Nazli told me. “The siege is a violation of human rights, and if we transmit this message, maybe the world will hear.”

I asked him if he thought anyone would listen. He said, “There is a heightened awareness throughout the world.”









Literally, the only country in this year’s World Cup proceedings without any sort of token or actual United States military presence is – surprise surprise – North Korea. And even this might change if Obama gets his way. That would put American troops in every single one of the 32 countries currently competing in South Africa, along with over 140 others.

World Cup Domination & Entertaining the Empire: One Aim Changes Everything

By Nima Shirazi

“Our situation is like a football match. The superpower countries are the players, and we are just the ball to be kicked around.”

A young Pakistani civilian, North Waziristan

The Great Game is indeed alive and thriving. This summer’s World Cup tournament is providing yet another way for the United States to project its power across the globe, though not as a result of the American national team’s action on the pitch.

Rather, this year, the subjugation will be televised.

While the presence of U.S. Marine Corps recruiting advertisements at each and every commercial break is perhaps mundane at this point, far more surprising is the frequent, scripted announcement by various British and Scottish play-by-play commentators calling the games for ESPN that “we’d like to welcome our men and women in uniform, serving in over 175 countries and territories, watching today’s 2010 FIFA World Cup match on AFN, the American Forces Network.” Other various comments have also been made about how proud the ESPN color men are of the American troops, what a fine job they are doing, and that the commentators “sincerely hope [the soldiers] are enjoying the broadcast.”

Beyond the surreal fact that announcers from the UK, like Adrian Healey, Martin Tyler, and Ian Darke, are eagerly praising American soldiers and sailors during the broadcast as their own (“our brave men and women…”), how can the rest be said with a straight face or without the most shameful sense of hypocrisy? That there are US troops stationed in over 175 countries around the world is a stunning fact in itself – although well-known by now if you’ve been paying attention at all for the past decade. At this point, there’s probably an ‘App’ for that.

But again, this is the World Cup, and overseas ESPN announcers are lauding the attention, entertainment, and service of U.S. world domination forces, a military that has invaded, occupied, overthrown, exploited, bombed, blasted, burned, and reduced to rubble many – if not most – of the countries that now vie for the cup of all cups. The same Armed Force that now gets to enjoy the harmonious excitement of the ‘beautiful game’ in all its High Def glory has stoked tension and supported instability (to say the least) in countries like Greece (1947-49, over 500 U.S. armed forces military advisers sent to administer hundreds of millions of dollars in their civil war), Brazil (1964, U.S. backs a coup d’etat to overthrow popular president João Goulart), Chile (1973, U.S.-supported military coup overthrows – and murders – democratically-elected president Salvador Allende and brings dictatorship of Pinochet to power), Uruguay (1973, U.S.-backed coup brings military dictatorship to power), Argentina (1976, military junta deposes government of Isabel Perón with U.S. knowledge and support), Honduras (besides past interventions in 1905, 1907, 1911, and 1943, in 1983 over 1000 troops and National Guard members were deployed to help the contra fight against Nicaragua, not to mention the U.S. support for last year’s coup), Slovenia and Serbia (1992-6, U.S. Navy joins in a naval blockade of Yugoslavia in Adriatic waters; 1999, U.S. participated in months of air bombing and cruise missile strikes in Kosovo ‘war’).

The U.S military is essentially still occupying Germany (52,440 troops in over 50 installations), Japan (35,688 troops with an additional 5,500 American civilians employed by the DoD – oh yeah, and Japan pays about $2 billion each year for the US to be there as part of the ‘Omoiyari Yosan,’ or ‘compassion budget’), and South Korea (28,500 U.S. troops). There are 9,660 U.S troops still stationed in Italy, 9,015 in the United Kingdom, over 1,300 in Serbia and over 1,200 in Spain.

Furthermore, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, and Uruguay all suffer the presence of at least a few American soldiers who are officially stationed there (some of these countries are forced to host 400-800 US troops). All told, there are about 78,000 American military personnel in Europe, along with approximately 47,240 in East Asia and the Pacific, 3,360 in North Africa, the Near East, and South Asia (obviously not including the 92,000 troops in Iraq and about 100,000 in Afghanistan and Pakistan), 1,355 in sub-Saharan Africa, and an additional 1,940 in the Western Hemisphere outside the United States itself.

Literally, the only country in this year’s World Cup proceedings without any sort of token or actual United States military presence is – surprise surprise – North Korea. And even this might change if Obama gets his way. That would put American troops in every single one of the 32 countries currently competing in South Africa, along with over 140 others.

A press release distributed by U.S. Africa Command (US AFRICOM) this week excitedly reports, “Through the cooperation of a host of international television licensees, the American Forces Network Broadcast Center (AFN-BC) has been granted permission by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to distribute the full complement of matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.”

A recent article in Stars and Stripes, quotes Lt. Col. Steve Berger, an intelligence planner with U.S. Army Africa stationed in Vicenza, Italy, as saying, “It’s really great for the soldiers to see, especially for an emerging sport in the U.S.” (And especially so that they can get a glimpse of the kinds of people they’ll be ordered to kill next!)  Even more exciting is the fact that, “Because AFN doesn’t pay for programming, it was important that it receive the rights to the World Cup for free, AFN chief of affiliate relations Larry Sichter said.”

Apparently, the U.S. military can invade your country and station troops there indefinitely, but it sure as hell won’t pay for television broadcasting! Especially not with the $531 billion allocated this fiscal year for U.S. military spending (a total which is expected to rise by $18 billion next year along with an additional $272 billion for the ongoing occupation of Iraq, the escalation in Afghanistan, the illegal predator drone bombings in Pakistan, and rebuilding and updating a nuclear arsenal in clear violation of the requirements of the NPT). The U.S. armed forces just can’t spare a square.

FIFA probably had no choice but to comply with the requests of the U.S. military for fear of having their offices occupied or blown to pieces. What a relief a deal was struck! How global! How peaceful! How imperial! How obvious, unsurprising, and embarrassing.

“Having the most-watched sports event on the planet play out on AFN is a real feather in our cap,” notes Jeff White, Executive Director of AFN-BC, in the text of the military press release filed from Riverdale, CA via Stuttgart, Germany. “But more importantly,” White continues, “we’ll be able to deliver the entire compliment of matches to the side that means the most — our brave men and women in uniform serving their country overseas and in harm’s way. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

That, out of the planetary pride, representation, and unification that the World Cup is supposed to be all about, the U.S. military would be “the side that means the most” is in itself upsetting – but hey, it’s a military press release and the guy’s name is White after all.

But White is wholly wrong about “it” not getting “any better than this.” There is a very simple way for things to be much, much better. If the U.S. reduced its dominating and destructive presence and aggressive involvement around the world and dismantled the hundreds of foreign installations that keep the rest of the world in submissive subjugation and under American occupation, these brave men and women in uniform could – and should – be watching these 64 soccer games from the comfort of their own homes in the United States, on the couch with their families.

For the sake of the entire world, it truly wouldn’t get any better than that.



Israel’s separation wall, twice the height of the former Berlin Wall and more than 750km-long, is a much hated barrier in the Palestinian West Bank.

Now, a restaurant owner in the occupied Palestinian West Bank has come up with unique way to please World Cup fans: he has been showing every match of the tournament on a section of the wall, transforming it into a giant screen.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith reports from Bethlehem.



World Cup 2010 by Amer Shomali

Originally appeared at Palestine Think Tank

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