66 MEPs across the continent call for justice over occupation of Palestine
FIVE FOOTBALL CLUBS based on illegally occupied Palestinian land should be barred from playing in the Israeli league, according to politicians from across the European Union.
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith initiated the call, which has led to an open letter to football authority Fifa.
MEPs want Fifa to enforce its rules that prohibit clubs playing in the league of another country without agreement between both countries.
The clubs in question – Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Bir’at Hayarden, and Givat Ze’ev – are based in occupied territories of the West Bank in Palestine.
For decades the Israeli national team has played in Uefa (the European football federation) due to a lack of recognition from its neighbours over political disputes.
Smith said: “I am not asking Fife to suspend Israel. We just want it to apply the rules. Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to play football. However, allowing Israel to use football as an instrument of territorial expansion in the West Bank politicises football – and this is not acceptable. The five settlement football teams should relocate within Israel’s internationally-recognised borders, in line with the EU and UN positions.
“I see a clear case for action by Fifa and welcome its new emphasis on the respect of human rights. My call is a joint one supported by dozens of leading politicians across Europe, but also committed supporters of peace in Israel.
“I am looking forward to Fifa’s answer. The settlement clubs should be excluded from Israel’s football league just like Crimea’s football teams cannot play in Russia’s league. All we ask is that Fifa sticks to the rule and keeps out of politics instead of allowing illegal Israeli settlements to prosper.”
Fans of Scottish champions Celtic Football Club recently put on a solidarity protest against the occupation of Palestine during a match with Israeli club Hapoel Be'er Sheva. The event spurred support across the world and £169,000 fund-raiser for Palestinian charities after Uefa launched disciplinary proceedings against the club.
The relationship between sport and politics is hotly debated. A worldwide boycott of Apartheid South Africa included sporting boycotts. The ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign against the occupation of Palestine has focused on economic and arms sales ties, especially with links to the occupied territories, but also organises a cultural boycott.
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