Dear Michel Platini,
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) urges the Union of European Football Association (UEFA) not to hold the UEFA U21 Championship 2013 in Israel.
In October 2010 not only did UEFA renew its commitment to anti-racism, you Mr. Platini, earned international recognition, when stating that “We accepted them in Europe and furnished them with the conditions for membership and they must respect the letter of the laws and international regulations otherwise there is no justification for them to remain in Europe….Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behaviour.” Since this time the actions of Israel have not changed, therefore the global Palestine solidarity movement is baffled, that despite your previous stance, you are now rewarding Israel’s atrocities by granting them the privileged of hosting the U21 championship.
The Palestinian people have experienced decades of military occupation. Israel operates an entrenched system of racial Apartheid against its own non-Jewish inhabitants and is illegally occupying Palestinian land in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. It has sought to further annex these lands and has systematically transferred its own civilian population into these occupied territories. Israel’s occupation is illegal under international law, including UN Resolution 242 which demands Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories. Additionally, UN Resolution 446 clearly states that the settlements ‘have no legal validity, and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East’. It is also the European Union’s common position that Israel’s settlements and occupation are illegal.
Your decision to allow Israel to host the U21 championship is extremely damaging. It sends the message that UEFA has no issue with the illegal and discriminatory treatment of Israel towards the Palestinian people. As an inclusive and anti-racist organization surely UEFA should take a stand instead of being complicit in Israel’s actions.
Palestinians are effectively barred from international football by the extreme restrictions placed on them by the Israeli occupation in a number of ways:
- In September 2005, Palestine was in a good position in its Asian zone group in the qualifying rounds for the 2006 World Cup, but the Israeli authorities stopped five key players travelling outside Gaza and Palestine failed to qualify.
- In April 2006, Israeli missiles destroyed the stadium in Gaza, where 1.2 million Palestinians live. Israeli authorities admitted that the stadium was specifically targeted; this amounts to a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
- In 2007 the national team was prevented from travelling to play a World Cup Qualifier in Singapore and thus eliminated, and in May 2008 was not able to attend the AFC Challenge Cup, denying them qualification for the 2011 Asia Cup.
- During Israel’s war on Gaza 2008-2009, 1417 people were killed including many children. The UN has declared that Israel were guilty of serious breaches on international law and human rights. Much infrastructure was destroyed including the Palestinian national stadium and the Palestinian Football Association building. All plans for a new stadium have been stopped because of the continuing Israeli siege, which still prevents concrete from entering the Gaza Strip along with other sports equipment.
- In July 2009 having been given permission to enter the West Bank, one of the best Gazan players was arrested at a checkpoint and remains in an Israeli prison till this day.
- In August 2010 Israel refused to allow six members of the Palestinian national team to travel from Gaza to a match against Mauritania.
- A few months ago the football league winners of Gaza and West Bank had to postpone their cup final because the Gazan team was refused permission to travel.
- The national teams are unable to train and play as complete team as a result of travel restrictions.
- Olympic players and youth teams are frequently denied both exit and reentry when travelling from Gaza to the West Bank.
These are just a few of the ways in which Israel directly prevents Palestinians from participating in football competitions.
To host an international sporting competition is an honour and there is nothing honourable about the actions of Israel towards the Palestinian people. A U21 championship held in Israel would disrespect the memory of the 400 children killed and the many injured in the war on Gaza. It would show support for a regime which imprisons children and leaves the youth of Palestine with little hope for the future. The message this sends to the youth of Europe, is that instead of standing up against the injustice that their international peers face, they can simply ignore it.
A broad alliance of Palestinian civil society groups has called for an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid. This movement is partly based on the boycott movement against apartheid South Africa. It is important to remember that South Africa was barred from the Olympic Games as well as international cricket and rugby until 1992 and was not considered to hold any international sporting competitions during that time. This played an important part in the international movement against South Africa apartheid and strengthened the successful movement to end the regime.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is calling on UEFA to reverse its decision. To allow Israel to host this tournament is acceptance of its crimes against the Palestinian people. We would hope that UEFA will hold true to its principles and stand with millions across the globe to reject the illegal Israeli occupation.
Betty Hunter, President
Palestine Solidarity Campaign