Manchester United football legend, Eric Cantona, has written a joint letter slamming Israeli “racism” and questioning Israel’s hosting of the 2013 UEFA U21 Championships:
“Why are…[people] silent when Israel is to host the UEFA Under 21s competition in 2013? Racism, human rights abuses and gross violations of international law are daily occurrences in that country…it is time to end Israel’s impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states.” Find Cantona’s full letter here: www.bdssouthafrica.com/2009/07/man.html
Cantona’s joint letter was written in support of Palestinian footballers and others who are being held by Israel under its “administrative detention” law (often compared to Apartheid South Africa’s “detention without trial”). One such political prisoner is the 25 year old Palestinian footballer, Mahmoud Sarsak. In 2009, Sarsak was en route to play a football match when he was arrested by the Israeli army, he was just 22 years old. He has been detained for nearly three years now, with no charge and no trial. The young Sarsak is on the 94th day of his hunger strike (for exactly 3 months he has taken no food) in protest of his illegal detention. He is slipping out of consciousness and is very close to death but Israel has still refused him proper medical care or a fair trial. Click here for Amnesty International’s Press Release.
Two days before Cantona’s letter, FIFPro, the international association of professional football players, also issued a statement demanding that Mahmoud Sarsak be released from prison. Philippe Piat, FIFPro’s vice-president said: “[F]reedom of movement is a fundamental right of every citizen…but actually for some footballers it is impossible to defend the colours of their country. They cannot cross the border. They cannot visit their family. They are locked up. This is an injustice.”
And on Tuesday (07 June), in a rare challenge to Israel, FIFA’s President, Sepp Blatter, expressed his “grave concern and worry” for Palestinian soccer players who are being held in “illegal detention” by Israel. In an official FIFA statement, Blatter said: “FIFA urgently calls on … [the Israeli authorities to ensure] the physical integrity of the concerned players as well as their right for due process.”
2. Seville striker Frederic Kanoute, Nicolas Anelka of Chelsea & others release statement of support
Over the weekend (16-17 June), Seville striker Frederic Kanoute, Nicolas Anelka of Chelsea, Abou Diaby, Momo Sissoko and other European footballers released a statement of support for Palestinian human rights and against Israel’s detention practices. Their statement begins:
“In the name of sporting solidarity, justice and human rights, we declare our support for Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak. As European sportsmen, we believe that every person has the right to a fair and independent trial….Like hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Mahmoud is in “administrative detention”, which allows the Israeli authorities to keep people in prison without giving any reason or the need for a trial, and for as long as the Israeli authorities want….A person’s freedom cannot be taken in an arbitrary way. In the name of civil liberties, justice, and basic human rights, we call for the release of Mahmoud Sarsak.” Find the full statement here on Kanoute’s official site: www.kanoute.com/Press-Release—Mahmoud-Sarsak_ad-id!32.ks
3. South African campaign appealing to SA Minister of Sports, Fikile Mbalula
It was first announced in 2011 that Israel would be hosting the 2013 UEFA U21 Championships. Since then there has been widespread condemnation and calls for UEFA to reverse its decision. Last year, in June 2011, UEFA received its first letter from the Palestinian sporting community calling on the soccer body to cancel on Israel. Most recently, on the 14th of June 2012, a close aide of Yasser Arafat, senior Fatah Central Committee member and chairman of the Palestinian Football Federation, Jibril Rajoub, publicly appealed to the UEFA President, Michel Platini, to “not give Israel the honour of hosting the UEFA U21 Championship in 2013.”
Locally a petition has been launched by the ‘Palestine Solidarity Alliance‘ and ‘BDS South Africa’ together with local football clubs appealing to the South African Minister of Sports and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, to join the call to have UEFA reverse its decision to host the 2013 U21 Championships in Israel. The petition has thus far been signed by former Minister in the Presidency, Essop Pahad; HIV/AIDS activist Zackie Achmat; UJ academic Farid Esack and over 500 others. It reads:
“We are respectfully appealing to the South African Minister of Sport and Recreation, Comrade Fikile Mbalula, to join us in calling on UEFA to reverse its decision to host the 2013 U21 Championships in Israel. The Honourable Comrade Minister was himself part of the United Democratic Front and other structures of the South African liberation movement that championed the slogan “no normal sport in an abnormal society”.In 2009, the South African Human Sciences Research Council found that Israel practices “colonialism” and “Apartheid”. To play sport in Israel, is indeed, playing in an abnormal society.” Find the full petition with all signees here: www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/uefa
ISSUED BY MUHAMMED DESAI ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA.