A 2012 Guardian report by Harriet Sherwood ‘Palestinian footballers hunger strike sparks fears for his life‘ informed readers that Mahmoud Sarsak was “a former member of the Palestinian national football team” who “remain[ed] on hunger strike over his imprisonment by Israel without charge”.
“A former member of the Palestinian national football team remains on hunger strike over his imprisonment by Israel without charge…
“Mahmoud Sarsak, 25, has refused food for 80 days, since 19 March. He began his hunger strike after his “administrative detention” order was renewed for the sixth time.”
“He was arrested in July 2009 while on his way from his home in Gaza to a national contest in the West Bank.”
“Sarsak’s family deny that he is a member of any militant organisation.”
However, as we noted at the time, the Guardian failed to inform readers that Sarsak – when he wasn’t playing football – was allegedly an active member of the military wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and that the Israeli Supreme Court had upheld his detention out of concerns he would rejoin the terror organization if released.
Even more remarkable than this omission was this risible quote by Sarsak’s father provided by the Guardian.
“The father of the Palestinian footballer, Mahmoud Sarsak, tells us…how he believes his son’s imprisonment is an effort by Israel to destroy Palestinian football“.
Though Sarsak was released in 2012, his legend – as well as the Palestinian narrative concerning a furtive Israeli plan to annihilate Palestinian sport – lives on within the UK media.
An article in the Sport section of Times of London (Palestine Push Back Football Boundaries, Dec. 28th) about the emergence of Palestine’s football team as force within the Asian Football Federation included this passage:
There are countless examples, so many that, in 2013, the Palestinian Football Association went so far as to issue a booklet detailing hundreds of alleged cases. The most famous was that of Mahmoud Sarsak, the player detained by Israel who stayed on hunger strike for 90 days, attracting global media attention and the support of Amnesty International, before being released.
Interestingly, while the Guardian at least acknowledged terror ‘charges’ against Sarsak, the Times of London reporter doesn’t so much as note the ‘footballer’s alleged links to the PIJ terror group.
The report also included this passage:
Jibril Al-Rajoub, one of the most senior members of the Fatah political party and the president of the Palestinian FA, for one, declared in November that Israel had a “systematic” policy designed “to eradicate Palestinian sports”.
However, Times of London omitted the most incendiary part of Al-Rajoub’s allegations.
Here, per Palestinian Media Watch, is the full quote:
During a press conference at the Association’s headquarters immediately after the raid, Rajoub said that… the raid on the Association’s headquarters was an open confirmation and proof of Israel’s systematic policy, which aims to eradicate Palestinian sports and destroy all means for its spread and development through its daily crimes against sportsmen in Palestine.
He added: ‘[No such thing] has ever occurred in human history, not even in Hitler’s time. Not even Nazism, which everyone spurns, ever interfered and attacked sports and sportsmen, as is being done to the Palestinians.’”
Though no one familiar with the tendency of Palestinian officials to engage in such Holocaust libels and misappropriations would be shocked by Al-Rajoub’s Nazi comparison, Times of London readers deserve better than such serious omissions regarding a highly offensive allegation by the Palestinian minister and the terror background of a ‘footballer’ from Palestine.