Irish soccer should show Israeli Apartheid the Red Card

From the archive (legacy material)

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign | March 2005

Boycott the Ireland-Israel football matches
On 26 March 2005, Ireland is due to play Israel in Tel Aviv, as part of the 2006 World Cup Qualifiers. The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), supported by the Movement against Israeli Apartheid, is calling on the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and on Irish players and supporters to boycott this match in protest against Israel’s continued refusal to respect Palestinian rights and International law. Show your support for justice and human rights by staying at home on March 26. Do the same when the Israeli team comes to Dublin on 4 June. Show Israeli Apartheid the red card!
Impact of Israeli Apartheid on Palestinian football
While Israeli sportsmen and women travel freely around the world, the Palestinian team has to surmount a labyrinth of checkpoints and border crossings just to play their “home” matches overseas. With no decent pitches on which to train and a suspended national league, their success in getting to the preliminary qualifiers cannot be overstated. Furthermore, Israeli authorities regularly prevent Palestinian players from attending international games. In September 2004, five players were prevented from travelling to the World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan. Unable to play in Palestine, the team travels to Doha, Qatar, for “home” games and trains in Ismailia, Egypt, more than 100 miles from the local Gaza players’ homes.
Israel’s labyrinth of checkpoints makes just getting to and from training a journey fraught with danger. Players from the West Bank have to circumvent Israel’s Apartheid Wall, take a bus to Amman (Jordan) and then fly to Cairo to meet up with their Gazan teammates. Travelling within the Gaza Strip can take hours because of the checkpoints. For instance, it took Palestinian players 40 hours to get to Rafah from the Egyptian border after last year’s Uzbekistan match. Despite these hurdles, their recent success has inspired tens of thousands of Palestinian children to hope that there can be a future beyond the latest Israeli curfew.
Palestine’s future generations and sporting talent is being wasted by illegal occupation, restrictions on movement and collective punishment. Since September 2000 Israeli forces have killed over 3,565 Palestinians – 22% of whom were children. In the past year alone Israeli soldiers have killed 176 Palestinian children. Many more have been left seriously injured by snipers and tank shells – unable to kick a football again. Although youth under 17 make up more than 50% of the population of Palestine, there are few resources available to them under the occupation. Youth centres have been destroyed by the Israeli army. For instance, prior to the April 2002 reinvasion of West Bank towns and cities, the Old City of Nablus had 13 youth institutions. Now only 5 of these are operating.
Despite the restrictions imposed on them, Palestinian children continue to defy Israeli curfews just to play soccer in the streets. Their steadfast resistance to occupation is mirrored in the determination of the Palestinian team to one day hear their national anthem played to tens of thousands of cheering supporters in a home ground in a Free Palestine.
Impact of Israeli Apartheid on Palestinian lives
Outside the sporting arena, life for the Palestinian people is getting daily more unbearable. Ghettoised and isolated from each other behind checkpoints, settlements, Jewish-only roads and the Apartheid Wall, the Palestinian people are deprived of their land and livelihood or uprooted as refugees.
When governments fail to enforce International Law, the people must act
Israel today stands in violation of over sixty UN resolutions as well as many international conventions on human rights. Through its continued military occupation of Palestinian territories, its policies of racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens and its denial of Palestinian refugees’ rights, Israel resembles a 21st century Apartheid South Africa. However, despite its refusal to abide by international law, Israel continues to enjoy preferential trading terms with the European Union and governments have been cowardly in their refusal to demand sanctions against Israel.
Palestinian and international civil society is calling for a boycott of all Israeli goods and services, for divestment and sanctions, until Israel respects Palestinian rights. During the 1970s and ’80s Irish sporting fans showed their opposition to Apartheid policies by boycotting sporting events with South Africa. Like the Dunnes Stores’ workers who refused to handle South African produce, the Irish people refused to give legitimacy to Apartheid, by boycotting the Springboks tour.
It’s time for people to demand justice for Palestine.
We are calling upon the Irish soccer players and supporters to stand up for justice and human rights by boycotting the soccer matches between Ireland and Israel on March 26 (in Tel Aviv) and June 4 (in Dublin) The Irish people should not allow Israel to use the football field to represent and assert itself, with its occupation and apartheid politics, in front of the international community. Irish football should not allow players and supporters to be manipulated as political pawns by a criminal Israeli regime which shows a total disregard for International Law by continuing to imprison the Palestinian people behind an 8-metre high Apartheid wall built on stolen Palestinian land, while at the same time pretending to engage in peace talks.
Empty seats and a major protest outside are needed, to show the Israeli Government that there is no place for Apartheid in the 21st century.