Israel declares war on Palestinian football!

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Moroccan football fans show solidarity with Palestine during the game between Raja Casablanca and the Palestinian team Hilal Al-Quds

THE EURO-MEDITERRANEAN Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med) has expressed its ‘deep regret’ at the Israeli District Court’s approval – on a pretext of ‘security concerns’ – to deny the football players of Khadamat Rafah (KR) club travel permits to the West Bank to play a Palestine Cup final match against FC Balata.

The Geneva-based organisation said in a statement that the Israeli government ‘exploits the judicial authority to bar Palestinian football matches’.

The organisation has also noted that such procedures constitute an unjustified violation of the basic human rights guaranteed under international law. (our emphasis – News Line)

Euro-Med added that the decision reflects the Israeli apartheid policy against Palestinians represented in denying Palestinians the right to freedom of movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which has affected all walks of Palestinian life.

Two days ago, the Jerusalem District Court refused the appeal of Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, on behalf of Khadamat Rafah club, against denying the team entry permits to the West Bank.

The Israeli prosecution provided full information about the players and the technical staff of the team to the District Court judge before he approved the ISA’s recommendation to reject the permit applications of 23 out of 35 people on the pretext of security concerns.

The Euro-Med stated that the Palestine club is recognised by the Federation of International Association Football (FIFA), which has been ignoring the Israeli ban decision issued last July.

Mohammed Imad, Euro-Med’s legal researcher, demanded the head of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, who strongly supported the participation of Iranian women in football matches, to exert pressure on the Israeli authorities to allow holding the Palestinian Cup final match.

Imad has described the Israeli continuous banning of players from travelling as a clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which ensured the freedom of movement without restrictions.

He has also emphasised that all international norms grant sport teams the right to freedom of movement in and out of countries taking part in sport championships without any restriction.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor confirmed that delaying the match again would deny the winning team from participating in and representing Palestine at the Asian Cup Champions League.

The away match between the two teams, which was held at the Rafah Municipal Stadium at the end of June last year, ended in a draw, while the home match was scheduled on/for July 1st, but has not taken place yet.

Meanwhile, while posing as a humanitarian body on Twitter, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation is waging war on Palestinian football.

COGAT – as that arm of the occupation is called – has also denied Khadamat Rafah football team in Gaza permission to travel to the West Bank for its Palestine Cup rematch.

The FIFA-recognised competition determines which team will represent Palestine in the Asian Cup Champions League.

An Israeli court rejected the petition challenging the ban on the players’ travel. The team has been prevented from travelling to the West Bank due to unspecified ‘security concerns’, according to Gisha, a human rights group that petitioned the court.

A Palestine Cup match between Khadamat Rafah club and Markaz Balata was held in Gaza on 30 June, ending in a draw. Khadamat Rafah, based in Gaza, was informed three days before the 3 July rematch that 31 of its 35 permit applications had been rejected.

Last week, COGAT approved permits for the rematch, postponed to 25 September, to fewer than half the members of the club. Israel approved permits for only five players, according to Gisha.

Yet while Palestinian football is held hostage by Israel, the world football governing body FIFA has refused to take action against Israeli football clubs located in West Bank settlements. At the same time the organisation ‘Human Rights Watch’ has stated that settlement football clubs contribute to human rights violations, as ‘settlements are built on land seized from Palestinians’.

FIFA suspended South Africa in the 1960s when it was run by an apartheid government. The organisation has taken a more lenient approach to apartheid as practised by Israel.

Palestinian campaigners are demanding too that sportswear company Puma drops its sponsorship of football teams based in Israeli settlements.

All Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal under international law.

Meanwhile, Moroccan football fans have expressed their solidarity with Palestine at a football match. The fans waved Palestinian flags and banners against normalisation with Zionists during the game between Raja Casablanca and the Palestinian team Hilal Al-Quds.

And in Rabat, Morocco, supporters of Raja Casablanca expressed their support for the Palestinian cause during their team’s game against the Palestinian team Hilal Al-Quds. Rajawi fans waved Palestinian flags and held banners against normalisation with Zionists.

The game, which ended with Raja’s victory (1-0), was held in Casablanca’s Mohammed V stadium on Monday, September 23. The match was part of the round-of-32 of Mohammed VI Arab Champions Cup.

Before the start of the match, Raja fans displayed a Tifo depicting ‘Handala’, a famous cartoon character portraying a 10-year-old refugee child.

‘Handala’ was created by Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali, one of the most famous cartoonists in the Arab world, known mostly for his criticism of Arab regimes and Israel.

Throughout the game, more than 50,000 supporters chanted songs in support of Palestine. The fans also shouted ‘Palestine, Palestine’ and ‘Gaza, we will never let you down’ for more than 90 minutes.

The Palestinians’ team goalkeeper, Rami Hamada, started chanting with the crowds for some moments in the middle of the game.

‘I would like to thank the Moroccan people for their welcoming,’ Hamada said in a post-game interview. ‘The atmosphere was amazing, I even chanted during the game.’

His team-mate Mohammed Sammar also expressed his gratitude towards Moroccan fans: ‘Many thanks to the fans who chanted for the glory of Palestine during the whole 90 minutes.’

Impressed with the support shown by the Moroccan crowds, Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, promised that the Moroccan team and their fans will be hosted for free during their upcoming travel to the West Bank to play the second leg of the game, on October 3.