Analysis

FC Barcelona: football clinics also normalise the occupation of Palestine

August 7, 2013

Last February FC Barcelona announced plans for the Barcelona first team to play a match in Tel Aviv (Israel) against a combined team of Israeli and Palestinian players to help “build bridges of dialogue between the two peoples” [1]. It was to be called the “peace match” and was scheduled to be played on July 31, 2013.

Last February FC Barcelona announced plans for the Barcelona first team to play a match in Tel Aviv (Israel) against a combined team of Israeli and Palestinian players to help “build bridges of dialogue between the two peoples” [1]. It was to be called the “peace match” and was scheduled to be played on July 31, 2013.

But, as soon as it was announced, the match provoked the opposition of the majority of the Palestinian population and of international organizations in solidarity with Palestine. The president of the Palestine football federation Jibril Rajoub gave the proposal a cool reception stating that it was “too soon” for an initiative of this kind and that “Israel does not even recognise Palestine as a sporting entity”.

Under the banner of “peace” the club was equating the occupying power and the occupied people. Barça, in collaboration with the international war criminal and Israeli president Shimon Peres, wanted the world to believe that the conflict between Israel and Palestine was down to some misunderstanding between two equal parties which could be resolved by “dialogue” and building “bridges for peace”. But, in reality, the origin of the situation is in the policies of occupation, apartheid and colonisation which Israel has carried out in Palestine since 1948. And the way to put an end to it is by the application of International Law and respect for the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people.

The Solidarity Network Against the Occupation of Palestine (RESCOP), made up of 38 organisations in the Spanish state including BDS Catalonia, launched a petition on Change.org asking Barça not to play in Israel [2]. The petition, published in six languages received around 2400 signatures from all over the world.

Faced with the avalanche of international criticism and the unwillingness of the Palestine National Authority to participate in the Catalan club’s initiative, FC Barcelona decided to cancel the “match for peace”. A few weeks later the club announced that, instead of the match, it would hold sports “clinics” in Palestine and Israel on the 3rd and 4th of August, at which all the players of FC Barcelona would be present and in which kids from both communities would participate [3].

BDS Catalonia, which forms part of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement  against Israel, wishes to make clear its opposition to the sporting “clinics” promoted by Barça in Palestine and Israel because they are inspired by the same logic as the defunct “match for peace”: namely equating occupier and occupied in the name of “peace” and normalising the occupation of Palestine. If Barça decided to organise a sports “clinic” just for girls and boys in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), the club – which is passionately supported by Palestinian youth – would be doing something praiseworthy. But to organise a sports “clinic” in Israel the day after doing one in the OPT would be to equate occupier and occupied and normalise an illegal occupation. Israel uses this kind of initiative politically to project an international image as a “normal” state which seeks “peace” while daily carrying out its everyday policies which systematically violate International Law and the Human Rights of the Palestinian people.

As we have said on previous occasions, the best contribution FC Barcelona could make to the cause of a just peace in Palestine would be to answer the call which Palestinian civil society made in 2005 [4] and apply a sporting boycott against Israel, as was successfully done against the South African apartheid regime.

Signed: BDS Catalonia

[1] « Palestinian leaders give support to FC Barcelona’s peace initiative »

http://www.fcbarcelona.com/club/detail/article/palestinian-leaders-give-support-to-fc-barcelonas-peace-initiative

[2] « FC Barcelona: Don't Play in Israel »

http://www.change.org/es/peticiones/fc-barcelona-don-t-play-in-israel#intro

[3] « FC Barcelona will host two football clinics on August 3 and 4 in the Palestinian Territories and Israel »

http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/fc-barcelona-will-host-two-football-clinics-on-august-3-and-4-in-the-palestinian-territories-and-israel

[4] « Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights »

http://www.bdsmovement.net/call

August 7, 2013
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