After Latest Incident, Israel’s Future in FIFA Is Uncertain

Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. After being shot repeatedly, they were mauled by checkpoint dogs and then beaten. Ten bullets were put into Jawhar’s feet. Adam took one bullet in each foot. After being transferred from a hospital in Ramallah to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, they received the news that soccer would no longer be a part of their futures. (Israel’s border patrol maintains that the two young men were about to throw a bomb.)

This is only the latest instance of the targeting of Palestinian soccer players by the Israeli army and security forces. Death, injury or imprisonment has been a reality for several members of the Palestinian national team over the last five years. Just imagine if members of Spain’s top-flight World Cup team had been jailed, shot or killed by another country and imagine the international media outrage that would ensue. Imagine if prospective youth players for Brazil were shot in the feet by the military of another nation. But, tragically, these events along the checkpoints have received little attention on the sports page or beyond.

Much has been written about the psychological effect this kind of targeting has on the occupied territories. Sports represent escape, joy and community, and the Palestinian national soccer team, for a people without a recognized nation, is a source of tremendous pride. To attack the players is to attack the hope that the national team will ever truly have a home.

The Palestinian national football team, which formed in 1998, is currently ranked 144th in the world by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). They have never been higher than 115th. As Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril al-Rajoub commented bluntly, the problems are rooted in “the occupation’s insistence on destroying Palestinian sport.”

Over the last year, in response to this systematic targeting of Palestinian soccer, al-Rajoub has attempted to assemble forces to give Israel the ultimate sanction and, as he said, “demand the expulsion of Israel from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.” Al-Rajoub claims the support of Jordan, Qatar, Iran, Oman, Algiers and Tunisia in favor of this move, and promises more countries, with an opportunity at a regional March 14 meeting of Arab states, to organize more support. He has also pledged to make the resolution formal when all the member nations of FIFA meet in Brazil.

Qatar’s place in this, as host of the 2022 World Cup, deserves particular scrutiny. As the first Arab state to host the tournament, they are under fire for the hundreds of construction deaths of Nepalese workers occurring on their watch. As the volume on these concerns rises, Qatar needs all the support in FIFA that they can assemble. Whether they eventually see the path to that support as one that involves confronting or accommodating Israel, will be fascinating to see.

As for Sepp Blatter, he clearly recognizes that there is a problem in the treatment of Palestinian athletes by the Israeli state. Over the last year, he has sought to mediate this issue by convening a committee of Israeli and Palestinian authorities to see if they can come to some kind of agreement about easing the checkpoints and restrictions that keep Palestinian athletes from leaving (and trainers, consultants and coaches from entering) the West Bank and Gaza. Yet al-Rajoub sees no progress. As he said, “This is the way the Israelis are behaving and I see no sign that they have recharged their mental batteries. There is no change on the ground. We are a full FIFA member and have the same rights as all other members.”

The shooting into the feet of Jawhar and Adam has taken a delicate situation and made it an impossible one. Sporting institutions like FIFA and the IOC are always wary about drawing lines in the sand when it comes to the conduct of member nations. But the deliberate targeting of players is seen, even in the corridors of power, as impossible to ignore. As long as Israel subjects Palestinian athletes to detention and violence, their seat at the table of international sports will be never be short of precarious.

Palestine national soccer team achieves highest-ever FIFA ranking

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian National Football team has jumped ahead 71 places in the FIFA World Rankings following a historic win and their first-ever qualification to the Asian Cup, reaching their highest-ever international ranking.

Palestine jumped to the 94th place in the international rankings after moving up 270 points during their drive to reach clinch the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, which pits lower-ranked teams from across Asia against each other and secures the winner a spot in the Asian Cup.

Palestine had won four matches and drew one on their way to clinch the AFC Challenge Cup, and earned a place in their first-ever continental tournament, by qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup to be held in Australia in 2015. 

Their final tournament victory came on May 30 when they beat the Philippines in the final with a curling free kick by Ashraf Numan al-Fawaghra.

Palestine won the tournament without conceding a single goal to an opposing team.

Palestine's football team is now ranked 10th in Asia.

The Palestinian national football team has been around since 1928, but was recognized by FIFA only in 1998.

His Name Was Ahed Zaqout: Former Palestinian Soccer Star Killed in Gaza

All it took was a recording of Donald Sterling insulting Magic Johnson in a derogatory manner for the twenty-four-hour news world to stop on its axis. Now imagine if Donald Sterling—in all of his paranoid, racist fervor—had an army at his disposal and bombed Magic Johnson in his home, killing him in his sleep.

If such a scenario sounds like hacky Phillip K. Dick fan fiction as written by Mike Lupica, then you have not been paying attention to the dystopian, genocidal panorama in Gaza, where no one is safe. You are unfamiliar with the name Ahed Zaqout.

Ahed Zaqout was a 49-year-old sportscaster and television host in Gaza, a national sports voice for a people without a nation. Two decades ago, he was a soccer star: the midfielder for the Palestinian national soccer team. On Wednesday, he was killed in his bed by the bombs of the Israeli Defense Forces.

As Gaza sports journalist Khaled Zaher told Reuters, “Palestine has lost one of its best players, he may have been the best midfielder we ever had.”

Why the IDF was “defending” itself against Zaqout is a mystery. He was no Muhammad Ali, using sports to advance any kind of political cause. He was that most conventional and familiar of person in sports: the ex-star jock turned broadcaster. But in Gaza, what we may see as conventional can become political. Zaqout was someone whose voice, sharp wit, and trenchant analysis was a source of joy and escape for a people under constant siege. Providing escape to the trapped of Gaza was in and of itself a political act.

Read more: His Name Was Ahed Zaqout: Former Palestinian Soccer Star Killed in Gaza

The Ferguson/Palestine Connection


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The St. Louis County Police Department that killed Michael Brown and initially placed Ferguson on siege has trained with the Israeli military. Former County Police Chief Timothy Fitch was one of 15 American officials to participate in a weeklong training in Israel three years ago.
The April 2011 National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). It brought together leaders from the largest American police departments, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with members of the Israeli National Police, Israel Defense Forces and other intelligence organizations.
"NCTS enables Israel's counterterrorism experts to share their knowledge and lessons learned, to help American law enforcement better protect America, and prevent us from having to learn the same lessons the hard way," an ADL press release said.
A spokesperson for the police department was unable to provide information about the trip's influence on subsequent operations in the county. The ADL was unavailable for immediate comment.
Over 9,000 American officials have trained with Israeli police and military units on responding to civilian protests and terrorism. These operations reflect failure to distinguish between the apparent duty of police to protect civilians and military responses to war. This fusion has had life-costing implications for Americans, specifically black, Muslim and Arab people.
In 2006, 92-year-old Kathryn Johnson was shot and killed by Atlanta police, who had participated in an exchange program with Israeli soldiers on counterterrorism and drug enforcement. The Oakland police who used tear gas and rubber bullets against Occupy Oakland protesters in 2010 were fresh off a joint training exercise with Israeli and Bahraini police forces.  An NYPD official reported that the department's now-disbanded "Demographics Unit," which spied on Muslim and Arab citizens, was modeled on Israel's practices in the West Bank.
LAPD executives took a trip to Israel in 2013 to learn about drones and other surveillance mechanisms.
"We are much more alike than dis-alike," said the LAPD's head IT person during the trip. "As civilized nations, we are all confronted with, in many cases, the same enemy: The ever-growing threat of terrorism and other major criminal elements."
The LAPD added drones to its cache of equipment in May.
While the Los Angeles drones are not Israeli-made, Israel is the world's largest drone exporter. Outside of the US, the drones have been used by governments from Canada to Australia and Brazil, where their intended purpose is for internal security and the war on crime.
Israel sold weapons to apartheid South Africa as late as 1988 and also gave arms to US-backed repressive regimes in Nicaragua, Argentina, and Honduras among many others.
Israeli companies currently expect significant growth in arms sales following the ongoing Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
 “After every campaign of the kind that is now taking place in Gaza, we see an increase in the number of customers from abroad,” Meprolight CEO Eli Gold said in a Haaretz  report.
Israel's operations have killed over 2,000 Palestinians. The UN estimates at least 72 percent were civilians. Missiles from Palestinian factions killed three Israeli civilians and one Thai migrant worker, while 64 Israeli soldiers have died in the fighting.
The US sends $3 billion annually in military aid to Israel, while American companies like Boeing, Raytheon and Hewlett-Packard make millions more off contracts with the Israeli military.
While Israel has played a role in the militarization of US police, this trend has been an ongoing practice in American society since the 1960s and exists beyond Israel's participation. Police responses to black political action grew more militarized during the "law and order" mandate following the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.
Today, surplus homeland security funding has given police departments over $75 billion in military equipment. The Pentagon currently offers hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of surplus military weapons to St. Louis County Police.
Some of these weapons are currently being used against residents in Ferguson, where activists have exchanged tweets of support with people in Palestine. Ferguson protesters have apparently waved Palestinian flags at demonstrations in appreciation of Palestinian advice on how to deal with tear gas. Activists have pointed out that the same company in Pennsylvania produces tear gas used against black Americans, Palestinians and Egyptians in recent protests.
For some, the very public repressive events this summer represent a critical moment for global awareness and action.
"The interconnected events of the summer of 2014 have brought a collective moment of clarity. #Ferguson #Gaza #USBorder #MakeTheConnections" tweeted H. Samy Alim.
Activists in Oakland, who have blocked the unloading of an Israeli cargo ship three days in a row, have carried signs reading ‘Global Intifada from Oakland to Ferguson to Palestine.' On Monday night, protesters shouted "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" to county and city police as they picketed at the port.
Others have insisted that analogies are not necessary to express support for either location and flatten differences between military occupation in Palestine and anti-black racism in the US.
"The people of Ferguson aren’t being treated like a foreign army. They’re being treated like black people in America," Mychal Denzel Smith tweeted.
A group of Palestinian individuals and organizations circulated a statement of support to Mike Brown's family and the residents of Ferguson last week.
"The disregard and disrespect for black bodies and black life is endemic to the white supremacist system that rules the land. Your struggles through the ages have been an inspiration to us as we fight daily for the most basic human dignities in our own homeland against the racist Zionist regime that considers us less human," part of the statement read.
An organization representing the rights of Palestinian prisoners also published a statement of solidarity.
"Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes the people of Ferguson, joins their call for justice for Michael Brown and for an end to police oppression, mass incarceration and militarization, and stands in solidarity with Black movements struggling for justice and liberation."
Follow Kristian Davis Bailey on Twitter @kristianbailey.

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Haaretz: BDS activists occupy security company offices in Portland

G4S protest

Protesters try to shut down G4S, which announced in June that it would pull out of Israeli prison system, for a day.

A group of pro-Palestinian activists briefly occupied the Portland, Oregon offices of global security company G4S on Thursday, to protest its affiliation with the Israeli prison system.

U.K.-based G4S, the world's largest security company in terms of revenue, has operations in some 125 countries, including 11 Arab states. Members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Portland targeted G4S because it holds contracts to "provide equipment and services to Israeli prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners, are detained and mistreated." They also cited G4S for providing "equipment and services to checkpoints, illegal settlements and businesses within these settlements."

Read more: Haaretz: BDS activists occupy security company offices in Portland

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