September 28, 2012

Barcelona FC persists with Gilad Shalit invite

Well this is very sad given Barcelona's own history but the president of Barcelona FC is persisting with an invitation to Gilad Shalit to be guest of honour at the game on 7th October against Real Madrid.

Here's an English translation of a petition from BDS Catalunya doing the rounds:
Dear Mr Rosell, President of Barcelona Football Club
We were both surprised and saddened to learn that the former Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is to be invited as a guest of honour of Barcelona Football Club to the clásicoagainst Real Madrid [1] on October 7 at Barcelona football stadium.
We understand that this is a gesture of good will by the Club towards a person who has suffered five long years of captivity in the Gaza Strip and who has made known his admiration for the Barcelona team. However, the former soldier Gilad Shalit is not just an Israeli citizen; he's also Sergeant Major of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), an army that since 1967 has illegally occupied the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza strip and the Syrian territory of the Golan Heights. The IDF plays a crucial part in the strategy of colonisation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing implemented by the Israeli regime in these Palestinian and Syrian territories over the last 45 years. In 2008-2009 during “Operation Cast Lead” more than 1,400 people were killed by this army in the Gaza Strip in just 22 days [2]. This action was widely condemned by the international community.
Since April, Gilad Shalit is no longer officially part of the Israeli army [3]. However, in the eyes of the Catalan people and the world as a whole he still symbolically represents the IDF.
We are also surprised to see your Club express so much friendship and sympathy towards the only Israeli soldier to be imprisoned in recent years as a result of this conflict while, at the same time, maintaining absolute silence about the 4,660 Palestinian prisoners now confined in Israeli prisons. These include 210 minors, 6 women, 20 members of the Palestinian parliament and 250 people under administrative detention (without charges or trial) [4]. One of the institutions that has denounced the predicament of the imprisoned Palestinian minors and demanded their immediate release is UNICEF [5], the United Nations agency that receives funding from the Club you preside and whose name appears on the players’ shirts. Furthermore, inviting this former soldier to Barcelona stadium as an honoured guest constitutes an exaltation of militarism that is contrary to the values promoted by Barcelona Football Club and UNICEF all over the world.
Barcelona football club should know that among the Palestine prisoners there are also many sportsmen. The case of Mahmoud Sarsak is especially revealing of the way the Israeli regime mistreats the Palestinian people and in particular their sportsmen. Sarsak, who comes from the Gaza strip, is a football player who has played in the Palestinian national team. He was arrested by the Israeli army on July 22 2009 and spent 3 years of his life in prison under administrative detention, that is to say without charges or trial. Sarsak achieved freedom on 10 July 2012, after 3 months of hunger strike, which forced the Israeli authorities to recognise that he was being detained illegally. During his hunger strike, in which he came close to death, he received the support of Eric Cantona, Frédéric Kanouté, the President of the UEFA Michel Platini, the President of the FIFA Sepp Blatter [6] and FIFPro (a worldwide professional football players' association).
On July 9 2005, more than 170 organisations from Palestinian civil society followed the example of the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa and called on the international community to impose boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) on the State of Israel until it complies with International Law and respects universal principles of Human Rights [7].
In response to this call from Palestinian civil society we urge you to withdraw the invitation to the former Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. As people who are concerned about peace, freedom and justice, many of whom are Barcelona supporters, we cannot accept that the representatives of the Club you preside share the presidential box with a person who symbolically represents a military institution that systematically violates international law and the most elementary human rights of an occupied people: the Palestinians.

Yours sincerely,
BDS Catalunya
And here's an open letter from various "Palestinian footballers, athletes and sporting organizations and officials":
Dear President Sandro Rossell
We, Palestinian footballers, athletes and sporting organizations and officials, are dismayed to learn the great team of Barcelona will host Gilad Shalit to the Classico, Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, on October 7th ,while more than 5000 Palestinian political prisoners remain rotting, many in isolation, many with no visits, many on hunger strike with no attention or care for them to be released.
The arbitrary arrest of thousands of Palestinians, including Gazan Palestinian National Team football star Mahmoud Kamel As-Sarsak, who was held without trial or indeed public explanation for the arrest, is a routine tool of Israeli occupation. Mahmoud was only released after a 95 day hunger strike. Many others are in Israeli prison on hunger strike as we write, some close to death. Mahmoud Sarsek lost 3 years of his football career and nearly died while protesting with the only means possible to him. He deserves to be hosted!

Joseph S. Blatter, President of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), has expressed “grave concern” towards Israeli practices and its restrictions on Palestinian players, especially those incarcerated in Israeli prisons, or banned from assembling for the national team. And Michele Platini said, “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behaviour.”

The Israeli illegal military occupation of Palestine and the five- year siege on Gaza has suffocated the aspirations of Palestinian sports men, women and youth for decades. So where are the consequences? Political support for Israel’s practices by hosting one of the Israel Occupation Force soldiers from one of the world’s greatest clubs?!

More Palestinians in Gaza support Barcelona than any other club, especially among children who make up the majority of the population. We, in Gaza, have all been through so much under a hermetic siege, regular bombardments, and frequent incursions. The use of overwhelming force in Operation Cast Lead in winter 2008-09 was responsible for levelling large swathes of Gaza including the Rafah National football Stadium, and killing football players Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshate, as well as over 1,400 other Gazans. National team goalkeeper, Omar Abu Rwayyis, was arrested by Israeli police in 2012 on “terrorism charges,” a label used for people whose life was football, not politics. Many times the Palestinian team could not assemble, train or participate in tournaments because of Israeli illegal restrictions on player movement.

Our footballers are continually deprived entry or exit from what many main-stream Human Rights Organizations call the world’s largest open-air prison. .You must be aware of the example last year when Israel refused to allow six members of the Palestinian national team to travel from Gaza to a match against Mauritania. Like everyone stranded in Gaza, Israeli spokesmen said the players were denied access for “security reasons”, claiming they did not have the correct permit, reminiscent of the notorious racist “pass law” in Apartheid South Africa. This is a continuous systematic policy for all of us that has decimated our involvement in international sport. The uncertainties from refused permissions to leave and enter the Strip and the changing severity of the Israeli Siege and Occupation are a major impediment and as a result the West Asian Union Federation does not always schedule games involving our teams.

In 2007 the national team was prevented from travelling to play a World Cup Qualifier in Singapore and eliminated, and in May 2008 for the AFC Challenge Cup denying them qualification for the 2011 Asia Cup. The Olympic players from Gaza have been barred from entry to the West Bank and the youth teams have frequently been denied exit and re-entry.

During Israel’s criminal attacks on Gaza in 2009 our national stadium was targeted and destroyed, as was the Palestinian Football Association building. A new stadium planned to be built in Gaza, Beit Lahiya, was ceased because of the continuing Israeli siege, which still bars concrete from entering the Gaza Strip along with other sports equipment. And theonly grass pitch in Gaza had previously been blown up by an Israeli missile forcing the national team to play matches in a virtually empty stadium in Qatar.

Just as the effective boycott of sports teams from the South African apartheid regime showed, sporting and political life cannot be separated. We ask you to not show solidarity with the army that oppresses, imprisons and kills Palestinian sportsmen and women in Palestine, and instead reach out to those Palestinian footballers with destroyed dreams and broken opportunities due entirely to the Israeli regime’s apartheid policies against them.

In the words of Mahmoud Sarsek:
            As a released prisoner, Palestinian national team footballer and big fan of FC Barcelona, I strongly condemn the club’s decision  to invite the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to one of their matches and I call on them to cancel this decision. There are almost 5000 political prisoners held captive in Israeli jails, suffering daily the horrifying Israeli prison practices that violate international humanitarian law and international agreements. Our prisoners, many of whom are footballers and other athletes, are facing some of the most brutal methods and practices of psychological and physical torture. Only former captives like myself know the full story of such oppression and humiliation which will haunt us for many years to come. I call on FC Barca to boycott participation with Israeli sports teams and call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel until it allows Palestinians their fundamental rights, including the right to participate freely in sport and sports competitions. Do not invite the Israel Occupation Forces soldier Gilad Shalit when so many Palestinians rot in Israeli prisons for the crime of being Palestinians who wish to play football and other sports.

Hosting Gilad Shalit is like parading a SADF soldier during the 1980s at a European soccer match. Would you have done that, F.C Barcelona?

Signed by
FC Barcelona Fans Association in Gaza
Alwehda (unity) Club-Rafah                                                
Alasteqlal (independence) Club-Rafah                                
Jamaa'i Rafah Club                                                                 
Alnuseirat Services Club                                                        
Deir Elbalah Services Club                                                    
Deir Elbalah Union Club                                              
Alsalah Charity Club
Alwehda Club- Jabalia
Jabalia Youths Club
Beit Hanoun Civil Club
Beit Lahyia Club
Albureij Services Club
Alaqsa Club-Alnuseirat
Almaghazi Services Club
Alnuseirat Sefrvices Club
Alzawaida Youth Club
Jabalia Union Club
Ansaar Jabalia Club
Alkarama Club
Gaza Sporting Club
RafahYouths Club
ALtarabot Club- Deir Albalah
Albureij Civil Club
Alredwan Club
Hetteen Club
Alta3awn (Cooperation) Club
Alwefaq Club
Aljazeera Club
Alyarmouk Club
Alrayaan Club
Albureij Youths Club
Alrebaat Club
Alzawaida Union Club
Almaghazi Youths Club
Alqarara Club
Alataa' Althahabi Club
Alshaf3' Club
Alshareqa Club
Canada Club
Alqadessia Club
Tel Alsoultaan Club
Shatti Services Club
Islamic Assembly Club
Khan Younus Union Club
Rafah Youth Club
Sports College—Al-Aqsa University
Players and coaches:
Mahmoud Sarsak (Palestine Soccer National Team Player)
Ghassan Balaawi (Palestine Soccer National Team Ex-coach)
Khaled Quake (Under 20 Palestine soccer Team coach)
Naim Salameh ( Coach)
Naif Abdul Hadi (Coach)
Jamal El Houli (Coach)
Abdul Hai Abu Shammaleh (Coach and Commentator)
I hope and expect that there will be demonstrations against this open siding with racist war criminals.


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