By STUART LITTLEWOOD*
Given Israel’s unsporting record and sheer bloody-minded obstructiveness towards the Palestinians’ efforts to participate in national and international sport (examples are listed below in Elizabeth Morley’s email), it is quite outrageous for the British government to applaud and reward the Tel Aviv regime’s racist behaviour. After all, the toffs who run our Westminster government were brought up on the playing fields of Eton and, we presume, had proper sporting values well and truly beaten into them.
Here is Ms Morley’s message…
Subject: Why does HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] support UEFA under-21 football finals being held in Israel?
In Hansard Written Answers for 17 April 2013 we read:
Sir Bob Russell: To ask the secretary of state for culture, media and sport what recent discussions she has had with the secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs on England’s participation in a European football tournament to be staged in Israel. 
Hugh Robertson: I have had no recent discussions on this issue. This is a matter for the Israeli Football Association and UEFA. The UK government and the Football Association supports UEFA’s decision to award the Under 21 championships to Israel.
Please ask your MP to write to Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport, to
complain. You can mention examples of Israel’s football-related atrocities, e.g.
- Bombing football stadium in Gaza
- Killing a little boy playing football outside his home
- Treatment of hunger-striking footballer Mahmoud Sarsak
- Preventing team from travelling to Barcelona
There are plenty of examples in other sports as well, e.g. most recently the
[Israeli army] prevented Gaza runners from taking part in West Bank marathon.
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 and welcomed UEFA President Michel Platini’s assurance that discrimination will be tackled wherever it occurs.
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 per cent 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 organization 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? Don’t the other nations in UEFA have any self-respect?
*Author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.