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PLO condemns Morocco - UAE - Israel football matches

Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |
  • PLO: Friendly football matches between Arab states and Israel are “an insult” and “a serious and deep stab in the heart of every free Arab”

In an official statement, the PLO Supreme Council for Youth and Sports has condemned football teams from Morocco and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for participating in friendly matches with Israeli teams in Israel.

The PLO council called the matches “an insult” to Palestinians and “a serious and deep stab in the heart of every free Arab.” It warned the Arab teams not to “fall into the trap of a Nazi occupation,” stating that it would shake their hands with hands “covered in the blood of Palestine’s children.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 14, 2021]

Similarly, a regular columnist for the official PA daily complained over the Palestinian media’s lack of focus on “the stench of normalization that wafted from” the match between the FIFA Arab Legends team and the FIFA World Legends team in Dubai on Dec. 17, 2021. The “stench” arose from the fact that an Israeli who the columnist coined “Zionist coach Avram Grant,” was coaching FIFA World Legends team:

“I [was] monitoring the normalization match between the former Arab stars and the former world stars, which took place two days before the [Arab Cup] final in the presence of Zionist coach Avram Grant… The media did not focus on Algerian stars Rabah Madjer, Rafik Saïfi, and Rafik Halliche’s withdrawal from the match in protest of the stench of normalization that wafted from it.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 21, 2021]

Senior PA official and Secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee Jibril Rajoub is also the head of the PLO Supreme Council for Youth and Sports, head of the Palestine Olympic Committee, and Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association. Palestinian Media Watch has documented that he is one of the strongest opponents of normalization with Israel in sports. PMW has submitted a number of complaints against him, the latest to the International Olympic Committee for his praise for athletes who refused to compete against Israeli athletes at the Olympics in Tokyo.

 Palestinian Media Watch has exposed that the PA has honored other Arab athletes for refusing to compete with Israelis, while Arab athletes in Israel are being discouraged from playing on Israeli teams.

The following are longer excerpts of the announcement by the PLO council and the column in the official PA daily:

Headline: “A statement from the [PLO] Supreme Council for Youth and Sports”

“The [PLO] Supreme Council for Youth and Sports issued a statement regarding the decision by teams from Morocco and the [United Arab] Emirates (UAE) to hold friendly matches with Israeli teams in the occupation state.

The statement reads:

‘The Supreme Council for Youth and Sports expresses its deep regret and condemnations of the decision by teams from Morocco and the UAE to hold friendly matches with Israeli teams in the occupation state and to host these teams on their lands. We view this as an insult to our people’s struggle and the sacrifices it has made, and a belittling of the sensibilities of millions of Arabs, Muslims, and people who identify with the cause of justice and human rights in the world. We remind our brothers, who made a decision that is a serious and deep stab in the heart of every free Arab, that with this act they are rewarding one of the most despicable kinds of occupation for its crimes against a defenseless people, a people that stands alone and on behalf of all the Arabs in defense of the Arabness of their holy sites. We call on them not to fall into the trap of a Nazi occupation, which is shaking their hands with a hand covered in the blood of Palestine’s children.

Out of respect for states’ freedom to choose their relations, we have preferred not to speak about the rapprochement between some of the [Arab] brothers and those who murder our children and defile our sites that are holy to Islam and Christianity, but signing cooperative agreements in the fields of youth and sports and holding meetings under the headline of ‘peace’ with the occupation that is systematically eliminating any chance for peace is something that we cannot tolerate and cannot let pass in silence…

We call on those responsible for these agreements to honor the decisions of the Council of Arab Ministers for Youth and Sports and the decisions of the Arab League regarding normalization in sports with the occupation state.’”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 14, 2021]

Excerpt of an op-ed by Fayez Nassar in the sports section of the official PA daily

Headline: “An offside for professionalism!”

“I do not know whether the attempt to hide the national characteristic of the [FIFA] Arab Cup in recent days in Doha was just a coincidence, or whether the attempt to hide the sun with a sieve was done on purpose. If it becomes clear that the attempt was on purpose – and I tend towards this opinion – did this stem from the personal discretion of the main TV director, or did he receive instructions to divert the camera from [expressions of] stormy patriotic sentiments so that Qatar would not be embarrassed before the biased international institutions?

I say this while monitoring the normalization match between the former Arab stars and the former world stars, which took place two days before the [Arab Cup] final in the presence of Zionist coach Avram Grant, who I know of no reason connected to sports that justifies his presence (Grant coached the FIFA World Legends team against the FIFA Arab Legends team in Dubai on Dec. 17, 2021 -Ed.). The media did not focus on Algerian stars Rabah Madjer, Rafik Saïfi, and Rafik Halliche’s withdrawal from the match in protest of the stench of normalization that wafted from it. The cameramen and writers also did not focus on the Arab stars whose value diminished in the eyes of the athletes [because of their participation in the match], and foremost among them… [Saudi player] Nawaf Al-Temyat. A few years ago, this same Nawaf took an Arab position that we warmly applauded when he told a journalist who presented himself as Israeli: ‘I don’t recognize a state by that name!’ So what has changed, Nawaf?

During the [Arab Cup] final [in which Algeria defeated Tunisia], the TV director played his electronic match, and his [TV] crew’s cameras attempted to avoid images of the Tunisian and Algerian fans who waved Palestinian flags – a position that restored the [Palestinian] cause to the embrace of the masses…

The main TV director also did not let us enjoy together with the Algerian stars the intoxication of the senses after the victory in the match, because the Algerian stars waved Algerian and Palestinian flags and waved the Palestinian keffiyeh (Arab headdress) of pride. Our friend began to broadcast to us interviews with the match’s stars, even though these interviews could have been postponed slightly without losing their value.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 21, 2021]