New Statements on the June 2013 UEFA U21 Finals

Red Card Israeli Racism campaign




27 November 2012

Mr David Bernstein

Chairman, The Football Association

Wembley Stadium,

PO Box 1967

London SW1P 9 EQ


Dear Mr Bernstein,

New Statements on the

June 2013 UEFA U21 Finals

As we mourn the loss of life in Gaza and Israel which included youth footballers, I attach for your attention two important new statements:

Attachment 1:  Sixteen eminent British citizens from many walks of life appeal for the finals to be moved.  They quote the same appeal from footballer Mahmoud Sarsak who was imprisoned for three years without charge in Israel, contrary to international law .

Attachment 2:  Four world famous footballers have noted that the finals ” will reward Israel for actions that are contrary to sporting values”.  They put a football perspective on the Gaza-Israel conflict.

Please convey these messages to Mr Platini. The home nations together could easily provide a more acceptable venue for the finals.

Yours faithfully,


Geoff Lee

Coordinator, Red Card Israel Racism campaign

cc   Mr Barry Bright, Leader of The FA Council

Mr Robert Sullivan, Head of Corporate Affairs


Attachment 1


12 November 2012

As football supporters we hear with concern an appeal (overleaf) from Mahmoud Sarsak, a young Palestinian national team player whose career was cut short by three years’ detention without trial in an Israeli jail. We are aware that he regained his freedom last July 10, only after a three month hunger strike won him sympathy and support from influential voices in the football world.

Sarsak is asking us now to show our support for all Palestinians who love the beautiful game but who suffer the impact of discriminatory Israeli policies on Palestinian football and the life of the community in general.

We are disturbed by the myriad ways in which the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and the siege of Gaza prevent both the development of Palestinian sport at grass roots level and its representation in international competitions. These include:

  • regulations and checkpoints that block the movement of players between Palestinian towns and villages and between Gaza and the West Bank;
  • official interference preventing the Palestinian national team from travelling abroad to train or compete and making it virtually impossible for foreign teams to attend fixtures in Palestine;
  • restrictions on the importation of equipment, even when donated by international football organisations;
  • prevention of the construction of facilities.

In addition to these impediments, life under occupation entails the constant threat of detention or even death. Two West Bank footballers, Mohammed Saedy Ibrahim Nemer and goalkeeper Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis, were detained in February and have been incarcerated ever since.

Four footballers were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed during the Israeli assault on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009.   Even children are not exempt. On June 20 this year, twelve-year-old Mamoun Zuhdi al-Dam was killed by an Israeli warplane as he played football on land near his family home in Gaza.

Against this background, Sarsak has drawn our attention to Palestinian dismay at UEFA’s insistence on having Israel host next year’s under-21 finals.   He says that staging this, or any other UEFA competition, in Israel “is legitimising Israel’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed to take place in Israel.”

Taking into account the high profile given in European football to combating racism wherever it appears, we agree with Sarsak that it is inappropriate for European football’s governing body to be staging international competitions in a country responsible for systematic discrimination against Palestinians.

We therefore call upon UEFA to move the 2013 U21 finals away from Israel and to assure Palestinians that Israel will not be granted such an honour as long as its discriminatory practices continue.

Signed:  Ken Loach, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, David Thompson, John Austin, Keith Sonnet, Karma Nabulsi, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Prof. Steven Rose, Bruce Kent, Rev. Garth Hewitt, Kika Markham, Ghada Karmi, Jenny Tonge. 


OCTOBER 17 2012

On July 10 of this year I was released after three years of imprisonment by the Israeli occupation forces and 92 days of hunger strike. The mobilisation by people of conscience around the world and the statements and comments by footballing organisations like FIFPro, professional footballers past and present such as Eric Cantona and Frederic Kanoute, senior football figures such as Sepp Blatter and other notable public figures, were both inspiring and immensely helpful in keeping the pressure on Israel and a major reason behind my eventual release.

I would like to offer my deepest, heartfelt gratitude to all those who spoke out against the inhumane treatment of Palestinians at a time when I and other hunger striking Palestinian political prisoners needed it most.

However, the arbitrary detention, abuse and torture of Palestinian political prisoners continue. Palestinian prisoner rights organisations have particular concerns about three who are on extended hunger strike – Samer Al-Barq, Hassan Safadi and Ayman Sharawna.

Israel works endlessly to repress Palestinian football, just like it does many other forms of Palestinian culture. Palestinian league player Mohammed Sadi Nemer and goalkeeper Omar Khaled Omar Abu Rowis were detained in February this year and remain in prison in Israel .

Football players Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshate, as well as over 1,400 other Palestinians in Gaza, were killed and the Rafah National Stadium was destroyed during Israel’s 2008-09 onslaught on Gaza.

Israel does not behave like a normal state where citizens can play sport freely. Why then, should it be granted the honour of hosting the UEFA U21s championship in 2013, or the women’s U19s in 2015? As stated in a letter from Gaza sports clubs to UEFA president Michel Platini, we must not “reward Israel for its violent repression of Palestinian rights”.

Platini has cruelly stated that the 2013 tournament will “be a beautiful celebration of football that, once again, will bring people together”. But by allowing Israel to host it, UEFA is legitimising Israel’s continued occupation, oppression and apartheid policies. There can be no place in football for segregation and oppression so prestigious tournaments cannot be allowed to take place in Israel.

I call on all those who spoke out for my release and the release of the Palestinian hunger strikers, to once again show their commitment to justice and equality by insisting that UEFA move their competitions away from Israel.

The cultural and sporting boycott and other forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) were vital in the fall of the South African apartheid regime, and similar initiatives will be vital to ending Israeli apartheid.

Signed:  Mahmoud Sarsak 


Attachment 2


21 NOVEMBER 2012

The horrific situation faced by Palestinian civilians in recent days is deeply concerning. We have learnt that on November 10 the Israeli army bombarded a sports stadium on Gaza. Four young people who were playing football were killed. Mohamed Harara and Ahmed Harara (16 and 17 years old), Matar Rahman and Ahmed Al Dirdissawi (18 years old).

We are also aware that since February 2012 two footballers with the Al Amari team, Omar Rowis (23) and Mohammed Nemer (22) are still imprisoned in Israel without trial or charge.

In the run-up to Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, which will reward Israel for actions that are contrary to sporting values, we as European sportspeople wish to express our regret at the turmoil of recent days, the primary victim of which has been the Palestinian people.

We express our solidarity and our support for the civilian causalities. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. The Palestinians must be protected by the rule of international law. We hope that a just peace will finally emerge – it is simply unacceptable that children are killed while they are peacefully playing football.

Signed: Frederic Kanoute, Moussa Sow, Demba Ba, Jacques Faty

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