Israeli-Palestinian Peace Through Soccer - The Jewish Voice
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Israeli-Palestinian Peace Through Soccer

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Jose Mourinho, coach of the Spanish football (soccer) team Real Madrid, hosted a recent tournament in Los Angeles, intended to generate good will between Israeli and Palestinian youth. (Photo credit: Mark Freeman)A friendly soccer (called “football” outside the United States) tournament promoting peace was held in Los Angeles for Palestinian and Israeli children earlier this month.

The game was sponsored by Children United and supervised by Jose Mourinho, coach of the Spanish team Real Madrid. According to the Spanish newspaper Marca:
“It aims to create a warm atmosphere in order to draw the nations together, and support peace between them… Mourinho’s influence may be much stronger than the influence of the governments, and football is capable of achieving what political agreements and treaties have been unable to achieve.”  

The event represents a breakthrough and may signal a change in Palestinian policy. The fact that the event took place is significant, but even more noteworthy is the fact that the official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, reported on the tournament without condemnation.

Palestinian Media Watch has reported that official PA policy is to ban sporting events promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. While positive Israeli-Palestinian sporting events have taken place in the past, they have usually been condemned by the PA.

The uniqueness of this story becomes apparent when one contrasts it with a similar tournament for youth held in Canada last year. The same PA daily reported strong condemnation of the tournament and the appointment of a PA “investigative committee”:

“The normalization tournament in Canada [between Israelis and Palestinian youth] has created a strong outcry on the Palestinian street … Abd Al-Majid Hujjah, Secretary-General of the Palestinian Football Association, announced that the Association intends to appoint an investigative committee to look into the circumstances. .. He emphasized that the investigative committee will submit its recommendations before legal steps are taken against the players. Hujjah said that the position of the Palestinian Football Association on the issue of normalization [with Israel] in sports is well-known already, having been made public, officially, on more than one occasion. This position has been disseminated among everyone involved and it rules out any contact by the Palestinian Football Association with any activity related to the Israeli side.”

Furthermore, even in the last few months, the PA sports establishment has stressed its opposition to joint Israel-Palestinian sporting events. Jibril Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association and head of the Palestinian Olympic committee, explained PA policy as follows:
“I also say on behalf of Palestine, that the last thing that can be found in the lexicon of Palestinian sportsmen is normalization with the occupation. Impossible, impossible, impossible, with no exceptions! I understand by normalization that the relationship between me and you will be normal, that we’ll play [sports] together and there will be a joint program. I say: there will never be normalization [with Israel] in sports.”

The next day he stressed PA opposition to “normalization” through sports yet again, as reported in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida:
“Jibril Rajoub, called to expel Israel from all world Olympic associations and committees… He emphasized that the term normalization [of relations with Israel] does not exist in the Palestinian sports lexicon.”

Only time will tell if the Palestinian reaction to the tournament represents a change in policy, or is an isolated incident.

Report courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch

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