In an attempt to bring the Euro 2020 competition to Jerusalem, the Israeli Football Association (IFA) has submitted a bid to UEFA – the governing body of European football. The IFA is proposing the Teddy Stadium as the location for the tournament. But this venue is also home to Israel’s ultra-racist Beitar Jerusalem team.
The Red Card Israeli Racism campaign has been pushing for the exclusion of Israel from the bidding process, reminding UEFA of Israel’s unlawful claim on Jerusalem as its “capital” and the recent massive assault on Gaza. UEFA will make a decision on 19 September.
The federation claims it does not mix sport and politics. But if UEFA awards the Jerusalem bid it will be a political decision. Israel is sure to exploit the occasion to promote an image of Jerusalem as if Palestinians do not exist.
In fact, UEFA does mix sport and politics.
Last week it was reported they had imposed fines on Scottish and Irish football clubs over supporters who waved the Palestinian flag and chanted pro-Palestine slogans during European matches. UEFA apparently considers the flag of Palestine a political symbol because the conflict with Israeli forces in the region was then still ongoing, reported Scotland Now.
A UEFA spokesman told the news website that the clubs had violated UEFA disciplinary regulations which state that the clubs are liable for the inappropriate behavior of their supporters, such as “the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious or provocative nature.”
Christian Visser, a Dutch attorney specializing in football, criticized UEFA’s punishments on Twitter. Ajax Amsterdam supporters are known for their identification with Israel and regularly wave the Israeli flag during matches.
Visser wrote telling me that he considers the fines for St Johnstone, Celtic and Dundalk as not justified: “It is surprising that UEFA imposes a fine for displaying a flag of a country that is a member of FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation. The argument that Palestine is embroiled in a conflict with Israel is weak. If one follows UEFA’s argumentation, the showing of flags of countries like Russia and Israel should also be fined.”
No penalties should be imposed on the clubs in any of these cases, he added.
Israel occupied the West Bank during the 1967 War, including the remaining eastern sector of Jerusalem. Israel immediately annexed East Jerusalem and dismantled the East Jerusalem Municipality in violation of international law.
The UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly adopted numerous resolutions which declared that Israel is prohibited from changing the status of Jerusalem or from expropriating land and properties.
However, the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) showed its utter disrespect for international law when it declared in a 1980 “basic law” that “Jerusalem, complete and united” was the capital of Israel.
Meanwhile, Israel’s policies of settlement construction, denial of building permits to Palestinians and home demolitions aim to achieve demographic control over Jerusalem, a process also known as Judaization.
UEFA considers the flag of Palestine as a “political symbol” because of the conflict with Israeli forces.
There is a “conflict” — but more precisely, Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, for decades. Israel still refuses to respect international law and continues to violate the rights of the Palestinian people.
Israel has a history of ignoring UN resolutions, including those calling for a complete withdrawal from the territory it occupies. It also refuses to end its discriminatory practices against the Palestinians. Instead, Israel has conducted numerous violent assaults on the Palestinians of Gaza, the latest and most deadly of which killed over 2,100 in July and August — the majority civilians.
In July, UEFA decided that no competition matches could be played in Israel until further notice “due to the current security situation.” A match between Israel and Belgium scheduled for 9 September was postponed until 31 March 2015.
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s coach resigned because of the security situation in Israel, reported The Guardian on 26 August.
“You cannot do [sic] as if there is nothing happening,” said Maccabi’s general manager, Jordi Cruyff. “Games are being canceled, the national team has to play abroad, all Israeli teams have had to play outside Israel.” The start of the Israeli national football season was also postponed, due to the assault on Gaza.
The Palestinian people are demanding that Israel be held accountable for the war crimes and crimes against humanity it has committed and continues to commit against the Palestinian people everywhere.
To award Israel’s Euro 2020 Jerusalem bid would be a slap in their face and a clear political decision.