Thursday, September 06, 2007

Wembley protest against Palestinian team ban

MEMBERS and supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in conjunction with the Boycott Israeli Goods campaign and Jews Boycotting Israeli Goods are planning a Day of Action this Saturday, 8th September against a Euro 2008 qualifying match between England and Israel.
There will be events and actions throughout Britain but the most significant will be a protest demonstration at the match at Wembley.
This follows a decision by the Home Office last month to ban a Palestinian under-19s team from a planned tour of friendly matches against youth teams in Britain.
The Home Office refused visas to all the players on the spurious ground that they might abscond and become illegal immigrants here.
The Palestine National Youth Football Team was to have spent three weeks touring Britain and playing English football teams including Chester City, Tranmere Rovers, and Blackburn Rovers.
The tour had been organised by the University of Chester along with the Palestine and English Football Associations.
Rod Cox, spokesperson for the organisers said: “I regret to tell you that the tour has been terminated, not by a hostile blow from a distant enemy, but by our own government.
“The Consulate in Jerusalem has refused visas to every single one of the team and its support staff of coaches and officials.
“They have produced a written reason for the refusal but will not show it to us,” he said. “I cannot imagine the disappointment of the boys selected to play in the team. The chance to escape the most densely populated, and seriously deprived, part of the world, Gaza, and show the world that you can compete with the rest, if only the chains are taken from around your neck, well, its gone.”
The Entry Clearance Officer at the Jerusalem Consulate said: “The refusal has been taken at the highest level in London. It is in line with current immigration policy.” incredible
Cox described the decision as “incredible”, adding: “Only a few months ago Britain’s Foreign Office was considering funding this scheme under the ‘Engagement with Islam’ programme.
“They recognised that the positive nature of engaging people in sport both in Palestine and in the UK helps to keep young men out of the hands of the gunmen. But the ‘Engaging with Islam’ programme has been completely terminated, and no grants will be given this year,” he said.
The American-born Palestinian striker Morad Fareed expressed his disbelief at the Home Office decision, saying: “Football is one of the very few institutions that Palestine has to compete, to show our statehood, to be on the world stage.” siding with the enemy
The chairperson of Truce International, Nancy Dell’Olio, offered her support for the team, noting: “This decision will be seen in Gaza, where most of the team originate, as siding with the enemy. To refuse a national team admission solely on the grounds that they are too poor and deprived will not do Britain any good abroad.
“The lives of these boys, who have worked so hard to achieve the position they are in, are just being thrown away.”
A spokesperson for War on Want commented: “The refusal stands in marked contrast to the welcome given the Israeli national team, due to play England at Wembley on 8th September. This is despite calls for that match to be cancelled in protest of continuing Israeli assaults on Palestinian towns, including the bombing of the national football stadium.”
War on Want is under investigation by the UK Charity Commission for allegedly violating its charity status through political campaigning.
Palestinian football teams have been dogged by a lack of support from those in power. In 2005, Israel prevented the Palestinians competing on the world stage by detaining players in Gaza during a world cup qualifier.
They also prevented the entire team leaving Gaza for an Asian Cup qualifier against Singapore in 2006, and barred the team from re-entering Gaza for over a month after they competed in Jordan in June of this year.
On 31st March 2006, Israeli army artillery shells left a large crater in the centre of the field at Gaza’s national stadium, claiming this was in response to Qassam rocket attacks.

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