Letter: 2013 Under 21 UEFA finals in Israel: The Problem of Racism

Mr. Michel Platini, President, UEFA,

Route de Geneve 46,

CH 1260 Nyon 2, Switzerland

 

Dear Mr Platini,

2013 Under 21 UEFA finals in Israel: The Problem of Racism

On the occasion of the last UEFA Executive Committee meeting you kindly met representatives of the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign.  In justifying holding the UEFA U21 finals in Israeli you emphasized to them that you didn’t want to mix sport and politics.

We, the undersigned  patrons of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, want to emphasise that the thrust of the campaign to move the U21 finals is essentially moral – not political.  The racist oppression of the five million Palestinians in Palestine and Israel through laws and physical force is completely immoral.  It contradicts the essence of all sporting endeavours and should not be supported, however unintentionally, by the actions of sporting bodies.

As you know, the case of Beitar Jerusalem Football Club illustrates the depth of the racism and the inability of the authorities to deal with it.  It is well documented that on the terraces Black and Palestinian players are subjected to insults and chants like “Death to Arabs”. A right wing group called La Familia is a large and highly organized section of the Beitar fans.  It recently sparked outrage locally and abroad when members held up a banner insisting that “Beitar is pure forever” when it was announced that two Muslim players from Chechnya were arriving to play for Beitar.

Following the signing of these two Muslim players there were remarkable scenes with racist fans protesting at the training ground, hurling abuse and spitting at players and officials.  Then on February 8th the offices of the soccer club were set on fire and several young men in their twenties were arrested.  This act of arson marked the height of the drive by the team’s racist fans to get the club’s management to oust the two Muslim players. Since then La Familia members have been giving the two young players a hard time. Other team members told a newspaper that they feel sorry for what the Chechnyan’s have to endure. The two have slept in a hotel with a guard at their door.

How can UEFA reward such an Association with the U-21 finals when it so blatantly cannot honour the UEFA principle of RESPECT?

The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has been unable to hold regular fixtures both within the Occupied West Bank and Gaza, and have not always attended international matches because of the Israeli occupation with its border closures, checkpoints and restrictions on movement.  PFA President Jibril Rajoub has asked UEFA to change the host country for the U-21 finals, as have many well-known human rights campaigners.

Please consider these facts and take immediate steps to move the U21 finals tournament to a European country.  The shortlisted Football Associations of England and Wales would certainly be able to put on the competition at short notice.

Yours sincerely,

John Austin,  Rodney Bickerstaffe,  Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC,  Victoria Brittain,  Caryl Churchill,  Jeremy Corbyn MP,  Bob Crow,  Canon Garth Hewitt,  Ghada Karmi,  Bruce Kent,  Ken Loach, Kika Markham,  Dr. Nur Masalha,  Karma Nabulsi,  Ilan Pappe,  Prof. Steven Rose,  Alexei Sayle,  Dr. Salman Abu Sitta,  Antoine Zahlan

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