The 2013 European Under-21 Football Championship (UEFA U-21) – hosted by Israel from June 5th through the 18th – represents the 19th staging of the event. National football teams from all over Europe will compete, with England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, the Netherlands and Norway, alongside Israel, all vying for the title of champion.
Anti-Israel boycott campaigners (branded as “Red Card Israeli Racism”) are campaigning for the tournament not to be held in Israel as part of a sporting boycott of the Jewish state. And, though their BDS efforts will certainly fail, the Guardian has begun providing these anti-Israel campaigners with the publicity they desire.
Indeed, the latest two Guardian reports on their site’s Israel page are a letter calling on the UEF (Union of European Football) to reverse their decision to choose Israel as a venue (‘Uefa insensitivity to Palestinians plight’, May 27), and a story, in the sports section, reporting on the publication of the very same letter the Guardian had just published (‘Uefa accused of ignoring anti-Palestinian bias‘, David Feeny, May 28).
Here’s the text of the May 27 Guardian letter:
On Friday, delegates from European football associations gathered in a London hotel for Uefa‘s annual congress (Report, 24 May). They agreed new, strict guidelines to deal with racism, suggesting a commendable determination to combat discrimination in the sport.
We find it shocking that this same organisation shows total insensitivity to the blatant and entrenched discrimination inflicted on Palestinian sportsmen and women by Israel.
Despite direct appeals from representatives of the sport in Palestine and from anti-racist human rights campaigners across Europe, Uefa is rewarding Israel’s cruel and lawless behaviour by granting it the honour of hosting the European Under-21 finals next month.
Uefa should not allow Israel to use a prestigious football occasion to whitewash its racist denial of Palestinian rights and its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
We urge Uefa to follow the brave example of world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking who, on advice from Palestinian colleagues, declined to take part in an international conference in Israel. We call on Uefa, even at this late stage, to reverse the choice of Israel as a venue.
Here are the signatories to the BDS call in the Guardian. As you’ll note by reading our brief bios, the group is dominated by ‘Patrons’ from the fringe group, Palestine Solidarity Campaign:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Former civil rights leader in South Africa with an apparent blind spot when it comes to Jews. Tutu, for instance, has evoked classic antisemitic stereotypes and tropes about Jewish “arrogance”, “power” and money.
Frédéric Kanouté: A footballer who, we revealed in early December, had falsely claimed that several other footballers had called on European football’s governing body to cancel Israel’s hosting of the Under-21 Finals.
John Austin MP: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and Former Labour MP for Woolwich.
Rodney Bickerstaffe: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron.
Bob Crow: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron.
Jeremy Corbyn MP: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and an obsessively anti-Israel campaigner who had participated in a meeting organized by the openly pro-Hamas group MEMO, and has actually opined quite explicitly in defense of both Hamas and Hezbollah.
Rev Garth Hewitt: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron, and singer/songwriter.
Bruce Kent: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron.
Ken Loach: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron, and a film-maker who has participated in countless anti-Israel campaigns, and has even participated in the kangaroo court known as the Russell Tribunal on Palestine where he accused the Jewish state of adopting a policy of ‘racial purity’.
Michael Mansfield QC: A British lawyer and Palestine Solidarity Campaign supporter, who has endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood–led ‘Free Gaza’ campaign – and also has participated in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.
Luisa Morgantini: Former vice-president, European parliament.
Prof Hilary Rose, Prof Steven Rose: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patrons, and among the founding members of British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). Their obsessive criticism of Jews, and of the Jewish state, inspired Anthony Julius to observe that they seem “proud to be ashamed to be Jews”.
Alexei Sayle: Author and comedian, Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and Marxist.
Jenny Tonge: Most notable for her remarks that she might have been a suicide bomber had she been born a Palestinian, as well as her claim that “the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western World, its financial grips [and] a certain grip on [the Labor] party”. Tonge also is infamous for calling on Israel to “investigate” the IDF in light of charges they were stealing organs in Haiti.
Dr Antoine Zahlan, Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and Arab academic.
Geoffrey Lee: Affiliated with the group leading efforts to boycott Israeli football, ‘Red Card Israeli Racism‘
Tomas Perez: According to the Guardian, he’s affiliated with the group Football Beyond Borders
John McHugo: Chair of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine, board member of CAABU, the Council for Arab-British Understanding. He has also contributed essays for the website of the pro-Hamas group MEMO.
Roger Lloyd Pack: Actor best known for his role as ‘Trigger’ in the BBC series ‘Only Fools and Horses’
Whilst this campaign, like so many other abysmal attempts to isolate Israel by the anti-Zionist left, will certainly fail, it’s important to contextualize BDS in all of its manifestations as the political derivative of various Arab (and Soviet) led boycotts which have been used for many decades as weapons in the war against Israel. In its modern incarnation BDS represents the main component of the “Durban strategy” – adopted by the NGO Forum of the UN’s Durban Conference (2001) – adopted by pro-Palestinian groups to completely isolate Israel by promoting economic, academic, cultural and even (as in this case) sporting boycotts of Israel.
As NGO monitor summed up the BDS movement:
- Boycotts are the antithesis of dialogue, cooperation, and developing peaceful ties between Israelis and Palestinians.
- Ali Abunimah, major BDS speaker and head of “Electronic Intifada,” labels Palestinian leaders who negotiate with Israel “collaborators.”
- BDS activists promote “one-state” solutions, meaning the elimination of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish nation. (A political goal which is codified as antisemitic by the EU.)
Further, this particular boycott movement – targeting Israel by attempting to politicize European football – has garnered almost no traction beyond marginal figures and a few extreme anti-Israel movements.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said after Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell asked why the government was supporting the tournament: “I do not believe that sporting fixtures should be an obstacle to political progress of any form”. Responding to the president of the Palestinian Football Association, FIFA President Platini said that UEFA did not believe in “punishing people and isolating them”.
Additionally, it is worth noting that the Israeli U21 squad comes from a range of backgrounds, and includes Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis and foreign football players.
We’ll leave you with a video featuring two outstanding Israeli players – Captain Eyal Golasa, a Netanya native who plays for Maccabi Haifa, and Moanes Dabur, an Arab-Israeli player for Maccabi Tel Aviv – talking about the Israeli national under-21 team and showing off their skills.