[Boycott - Sports]
Time to kick Israel out of European football
Gaudd, ETims (Celtic Fanzine)
4 June 2010
"The lesson of South Africa is that the sports boycott helped change the old politics." - Jim Murphy, Labour MP for East Renfrewshire.
"It is a question of boycotting racism, not sport, precisely in order to restore to sport all the magnanimity of its first purpose." - Amadou Mahtar-M'Bow, Director -General of UNESCO to the International Conference on Sports Boycott Against South Africa in 1985.
"The sights in the territories even turn the stomach of someone who grew up under apartheid. The occupation reminds me of the darkest days of apartheid, but we never saw tanks and planes firing at a civilian population. It's a monstrousness I'd never seen before." - Ronnie Kasrils, South Africa's minister for intelligence services in 2007.
"After four decades of Israeli occupation, the infrastructure and superstructure of apartheid have been put in place. Outside the never-never land of mainstream American Jewry and U.S. media, this reality is barely disputed." - American academic Norman Finkelstein.
Switzerland Vs Israel football match in Basel, 3 Sept 2005.
In 2007 the courageous Israeli journalist Gideon Levy travelled to South Africa to attend a UN peace conference, during the visit Levy, who writes for the Haaretz newspaper, met the country's Jewish intelligence services minister, Ronnie Kasrils. Kasrils, who had personally visited the Occupied Territories, spoke of his dismay at what he saw as a grim history revisited: "When we saw on television the drama going on in your country, the oppressive pictures of the methods you use toward the Palestinians, the uprooting of trees, the tanks entering Jenin, and the old woman weeping over the demolition of her house and crying 'The Jews, the Jews' - it's just like what my grandmother used to tell me about the pogroms: The Cossacks are coming, the Cossacks are coming. I'm trying to say: It's not the Jews, it's Zionism that's doing this. So I decided to get up and say something. I found this in the Jewish tradition: to open your mouth, in the name of conscience." Kasrils rightly recognised that the evils of Apartheid had not died out with the redemption of his own country, they were alive and flourishing in a nation he thought of as the Jewish spiritual home.
It is a question of boycotting racism, not sport, precisely in order to restore to sport all the magnanimity of its first purpose.
Amadou Mahtar-M'Bow, Director -General of UNESCO to the International Conference on Sports Boycott Against South Africa in 1985.
In 2002 another veteran anti-Apartheid campaigner voiced his distress after a visit to the Holy Land. In a speech at a US conference called Ending the Oppression, Archbishop Desmond Tutu informed delegates that what he had seen was Apartheid, nothing less. "It reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa," he informed his audiance. "The humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about". He continued: "Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions?" The question eight years later may be considered rhetorical. Since Tutu visited the West Bank, Israel has undergone a dramatic and fundamental shift to the extreme right, allowing previous racist pariahs such as Avigdor Lieberman to crawl from under their rocks, slithering into the mainstream to occupy positions of high office; foreign minister in Leiberman's case.
If you have never heard of him, a fellow rightist Zionist, Martin Peretz editor-in-chief of The New Republic, called Leiberman "a neo-fascist", "a certified gangster" and "the Israeli equivalent of Jörg Haider". Ophir Pines-Paz, the minister for science, culture and sport resigned when Leiberman's party, Yisrael Beiteinu, was included by Olmert in his coalition government. Annoucing his resignation Pines-Paz declared: "The moment the government decided to allow the inclusion of Lieberman and his party, whose leaders are infected with racist and anti-democratic statements, I am left with no other choice." Since then the grip of the extreme right on the Israeli political system has strengthened and Avigdor Lieberman is now surrounded by colleagues who seem determined to out-bid him in the political sewer race as they continually seek ways to strip Israel's Arabs of their citizenship.
In case you doubt the nature of what is occurring in Israel, the Jewish journalist Peter Beinart gave a pretty reasonable summary in his article, "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment" for the New York Review of Books. In the article Beinart condemned the blinkered defence of all Israel's crimes by the main US Jewish organisations, and bemoaned the demise of traditional Jewish liberalism in Israel. "In Israel today, this humane, universalistic Zionism does not wield power. To the contrary, it is gasping for air, " he declared in a rather understated way. "To understand how deeply antithetical its values are to those of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, it’s worth considering the case of Effi Eitam. Eitam, a charismatic ex–cabinet minister and war hero, has proposed ethnically cleansing Palestinians from the West Bank. 'We’ll have to expel the overwhelming majority of West Bank Arabs from here and remove Israeli Arabs from [the] political system,' he declared in 2006. In 2008, Eitam merged his small Ahi Party into Netanyahu’s Likud. And for the 2009–2010 academic year, he is Netanyahu’s special emissary for overseas 'campus engagement.' In that capacity, he visited a dozen American high schools and colleges last fall on the Israeli government’s behalf. The group that organized his tour was called 'Caravan for Democracy.'"
On Leiberman, Beinart stated: "He wants to revoke the citizenship of Israeli Arabs who won’t swear a loyalty oath to the Jewish state. He tried to prevent two Arab parties that opposed Israel’s 2008–2009 Gaza war from running candidates for the Knesset. He said Arab Knesset members who met with representatives of Hamas should be executed. He wants to jail Arabs who publicly mourn on Israeli Independence Day, and he hopes to permanently deny citizenship to Arabs from other countries who marry Arab citizens of Israel." In the past, despite Israel's crimes, such policies would have remained on the lunatic fringe, now they are mainstream and championed by Government ministers. Often the Apartheid laws and regulations they seek to introduce are given a makeover just for appearances sake. One method is to disguise racist policies by reserving jobs and benefits for IDF veterans, this is a neat way of discriminating against Israeli-Arabs as very few serve in the Israeli armed forces. In March 2009 for example Israel Railways, a government company, sacked 40 low paid Israeli-Arab level-crossing monitors, stating that these jobs were now reserved for army veterans. The new employees were all Jewish.
Switzerland Vs Israel football match in Basel, 3 Sept 2005.
To list the historic and growing discrimination faced by Arab-Israelis would take a book on its own, and that's without even touching upon the horror in the Occupied Territories. Let's suffice with a quick look at one area, housing. In the 2002 Jerusalem Letter article, Israeli Arabs: Expectations and Realities by Gerald B. Bubis, we can read: "The present 'Master Plan' of the Ministry of Housing for the next 20 years indicates that 700,000 new units are needed, of which 211,000 are in various stages of planning. Of those in the planning stage, 5,000 are intended for use by Arab families. Thus, if the plan is implemented, the Arabs who represent nearly 20 percent of the present population will receive barely 2 percent of the housing. The Israeli Arabs have received only one-third of 1 percent of the public housing built in the last quarter century." Israel and its supporters claim no discrimination exists, yet the evidence is everywhere.
When faced with Apartheid in South Africa the progressive forces in many countries looked upon that which the bigots held dear and decided to target those institutions. Sport featured highly on the boycott list for good reason. A rogue state that is protected by powerful forces, as South Africa was until its Cold War credits ran out and as Israel is today, can learn through the instigation of popular campaigns that the adoption of evil does not come without cost. The sporting boycott certainly hurt the white community in South Africa and helped hasten the end of Apartheid, it definitely played its part in creating the pariah status of that nation and kept the issue of Apartheid in the headlines. We can do the same now with Israel and by doing so play a part in creating a better nation for all its people to live in peace without one race being granted special status over another.
Of course there are differences between South Africa and Israel, differences that make a sporting boycott of Israel not such an obvious no-brainer as a boycott of South Africa. For one thing the Boers did not have the same sympathy that the Jews justifiably generate due to The Holocaust, even though the Boers also suffered in concentration camps; losing 27,000 interred women and children during the 1899-1902 South African War - but since they were murdered by the British it's ok and time to move on. Israel, and its external Zionist allies, realised long ago that The Holocaust can act as a shield for all its transgressions, and naturally the Zionists have milked the atrocity for all its worth. As part of this tactic they have promoted the myth of permanent victim status, to the point where the world's fourth rated military power can claim with a straight face that a militia of no more than 5,000 with no heavy weapons of any kind poses a threat to its existence; and this is then believed by many.
Israel though may have overplayed its hand with The Holocaust, and with the routine hysterical policy of labelling anyone who opposes its crimes as anti-Semitic, or if they are Jewish, a "self-hater". Even so, The Holocaust is still a powerful PR tool, and faced with such a monolithic stigma it is natural that a grim silence is chosen instead of a waved fist, natural but self-defeating. For by failing to confront the battery of Israel's defamation tactics, such acts are strengthened and gain greater effect. As Jewish liberals such as Peter Beinart, Gideon Levy and Ben Richard Cramer (in his book "How Israel Lost") point out, Israel needs to be saved from itself, from the forces of growing religious intolerance and extreme right wing politics that have turned the nation into a dark blot on the Middle East landscape. Israel does not benefit in the long run from progressives remaining silent due to respect for The Holocaust or fear of being stigmatised as anti-Semitic racists, nor does allowing one people to suffer because their oppressors suffered in the past make any kind of moral sense; two wrongs do not make a right. Silence in the face of injustice can never be excused, no matter what historical baggage is dragged onto the stage.
The necessity of a sporting boycott of Israel grows with each passing Apartheid law, each racist act by the Israeli state, after each and every flouting of international law and accepted tenet of human decency. A state such as Israel has no place in sport, and certainly no place in European football. By allowing Israel the succour of international respectability football is not adopting neutrality, it is not promoting the myth that politics and sport do not mix because it is taking a political stance. It is in fact confirming that Israel's special status allows it to carry out such heinous activities without the fear of otherwise guaranteed international repercussions. In short there is no happy middle ground on this one, no fence to sit on. Israel is either confirmed in its untouchable state of psychopathic, racist bliss or it is informed of the unacceptability of its actions.
Israel's crimes in Gaza and Lebanon are well known, equally well known, although clouded in a smokescreen of a massive IDF disinformation campaign, is the crushing of the Freedom Flotilla's attempt to break the inhuman blockade of Gaza. Not only has Israel embraced extremism internally, it has also thrown off even the faint traces of restraint that governed its external behaviour. Israel now is a rogue state, protected from repercussions by the US and thus emboldened to further extremism. Well, repercussions are required, and if the US will not allow the international community to impose these through the UN (whose resolutions Israel flouts with impunity), then the international community must seek other ways to reign in Israel, and by doing so aid the forces of Jewish liberalism that oppose the extremism of Zionism. A sporting boycott of Israel is long overdue, a start can be made by removing Israel from both European national and club competitions. It will not in itself bring about change, but as we witnessed with Apartheid South Africa, it will certainly play its part.
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