200 Palestinian Teams to Atlético and Inter: Cancel "Friendly" in Apartheid Israel

Palestinian sports teams urge Atlético de Madrid and Inter Milan to cancel their "friendly" match in apartheid Israel organized to sports-wash Israel's latest assault on Palestinians and as star athletes stand up for Palestinian rights in unprecedented numbers.

An open letter from 207 Palestinian sports clubs to Atlético de Madrid and Inter Milan

We, the undersigned Palestinian sports clubs, write to urge you to cancel your “friendly” match in apartheid Israel, scheduled to take place on the 8th of August 2021.

As your colleagues, and as athletes who share a passion for sports and fair play, we don’t want to see your passion and name being abused by anyone, especially not by apartheid Israel’s propaganda in its desperate attempt to sports-wash the state’s continuous violations of international law and crimes against our Palestinian people.

The match is being organized by Canadian Israeli billionaire Sylvan Adams, a self-proclaimed ambassador for Israel who says he is “devoting this chapter of [his] life to promoting Israel.” Adams has teamed up, as he has for many previous sportswashing events, with the Israeli Comtec Group, whose clients include the Israeli government and illegal Israeli settlement companies.

In the month of May alone, Israeli soldiers killed two promising football players, 16 year old Said Odeh of the Balata FC in the occupied West Bank and Muath Nabil Al-Zaanin of Beit Hanoun FC in Gaza. Israel has ended the careers of dozens of Palestinian athletes. Israel restricts our freedom of movement, meaning we are not free to travel to train or to play against our Palestinian counterparts. It also means that our chances of travelling to play against other regional or international teams are very limited.

Racism is rampant in Israeli football. For example, the Beitar Jerusalem fan club, known as ‘La Familia,’ regularly chants “death to Arabs.” They have also called for a Christian player from Nigeria to change his name because it sounded “too Muslim,” and set fire to the club’s offices after it signed two Muslim players from Chechnya. As the New York Times reports, some Beitar Jerusalem fans even raise the slogan “Beitar pure forever,” which, the Times says, “reminded many here of Nazi Germany’s purging of Jews from athletics in 1933 and prompted statewide discussion about racism on and off the field.” In mid-May, as Israeli right-wing fascist thugs organized lynch mobs against Palestinians, a La Familia group chat called to “break into [Palestinian] houses and stab them! Start knocking on doors one by one.”

This racism is not limited to football, but institutionalized in Israel, which prominent international and Israeli human rights organizations have very recently described as an apartheid regime. Israel’s apartheid regime, and all its components, including football, are deeply complicit in international law violations. The Israel Football Association (IFA) refuses to exclude illegal settlement teams it includes in its leagues, while it continues to defend these teams against any sanctions within international bodies.

With Israel’s latest assault on our people, especially in the besieged Gaza Strip and Jerusalem, we have seen waves of meaningful solidarity from all over the world, especially in sports, with unprecedented numbers of active players standing up for Palestinian rights. In addition, tens of thousands of artists, musicians and academics have signed letters supporting the right of Palestinians for freedom and justice, they have also pledged not to undermine the Palestinian struggle and not to whitewash Israeli apartheid.

In 2018, when Argentina cancelled its friendly with Israel, their striker Gonzalo Higuain said that they did the right thing. Today, we ask you to do the right thing too. Please cancel this sports-washing match.

Source : Safa