I've just received a timely reminder about the UEFA under-21 finals to be held in Israel in June.
Given Israel's unsporting record towards the Palestinians’ efforts to participate in national and international sport, it is quite outrageous for the British government to applaud and reward the Tel Aviv regime's racist behaviour. After all, those running our Westminster go
vernment were brought up on the playing fields of Eton and, we presume, had proper sporting values well and truly beaten into them.
Many of us put the matter to UEFA last October/November. I recall saying that the sport-loving fraternity took great encouragement from UEFA's commitment to zero tolerance of racism in any form of and welcomed President Michel Platini's assurance that discrimination will be tackled wherever it occurs.
Questions to UEFA
“In this connection I and many others are surprised at Israel's inclusion in UEFA, and to discover that an Israeli sits on the executive committee. Israel is not even in Europe. Is UEFA membership now open to all Eastern Mediterranean countries? ...UEFA is surely aware that the Israelis bombed Gaza's football stadium in 2006, and in 2004 sabotaged the Palestinians' efforts to qualify in the World Cup. UEFA will also know that Israel continues its illegal occupation and imposes closures, curfews, travel restrictions and other military and "administrative" measures that have prevented the formation of a Palestinian football league from which a pool of players would normally have been drawn.
“Why UEFA would welcome into its midst a regime that practises such inhuman policies in defiance of international law is an interesting question. But having done so, one is prompted to ask if UEFA has satisfied itself that Israel's 25% non-Jewish citizens are allowed equal opportunities and facilities to train to a national level in all Israeli sports programmes, and if so that there is no discrimination against Arabs in selecting Israel's national football teams. Are non-Jewish players included and who are they?
“Also, has UEFA invited Palestine to join and take part? As UEFA'a policy is zero tolerance to discrimination it could hardly invite the one without the other.
“I would be interested to know the views, please, of Mr. Platini and the British member Geoffrey Thompson, if you would kindly put these questions to them.”
These questions are still unanswered. Instead I received an evasive bureaucratic response which said: “We are committed to offer all of our 53 member associations - including the Israeli FA - their national teams, clubs and supporters, the opportunity to participate in our competitions and in the development of football across Europe. And it is with this in mind that the UEFA Executive Committee awarded the organisation of the final tournament of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship 2013 to Israel.”
The British minister in question, Hugh Robertson, wasn't toff enough to go to Eton but at least he's a playing member of the prestigious MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) so can probably recite the Laws of Cricket backwards. In that case why is his department expressing support for UEFA granting such lofty privileges to apartheid Israel when genuine European countries deserve to enjoy the benefits of hosting the finals themselves?
And if Israel is to be welcomed into Europe's sporting fixtures, shouldn’t the Zionist regime be required to clean up its act first?
Stuart Littlewood is a marketing specialist turned writer-photographer in the UK. He is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.
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