Scoring goals against the “Israeli apartheid” myth

March 31, 2005


1. Israeli-Arab players the pride of Israel
2. Making up Apartheid in Ireland
3. Don't want to spoil the myth
4. Hatikva furor
5. Israel's chances for qualifying for 'Germany 2006'
6. Jose Mourinho lends a helping hand for peace
7. "IPSC calls for boycott of Ireland-Israel match" (Dublin, March 26, 2005)
8. "Arab striker keeps alive Israel's World Cup chances" (Al Bawaba, March 27, 2005)
9. "Jose never felt so humble" [as at the Western Wall] (The Sun, March 29, 2005)
10. "French goalie changes his mind" (Ynet- Yedioth Ahronoth, March 27, 2005)



[Note by Tom Gross]

Almost half the subscribers to this email list are American, but no doubt everyone knows the global importance of football (soccer) in formulating national pride and domestic unity.

In the last four days, Israel has played two crucial World Cup qualifying matches. (They were played in Tel Aviv before a sellout crowd of 44,000, not in Cyprus where Israel was forced to play its 'home' matches in the Euro 2004 qualifying group.) Israel's opponents were two of the top ranked teams in the world – France and the Republic of Ireland. In both matches Israel achieved what are considered to be very good results, forcing 1-1 draws.

In both cases, Israel's late equalizing goals were scored by Israeli-Arab players, Abbas Suwan in the Ireland match on Saturday, and Walid Badir in the France match yesterday. Unlike Irish television (see below) these Israeli Arab players say they were proud to sing and listen to the Israeli national anthem at the start of the matches.

Many people around the world, including some subscribers to this email list, may be surprised to learn there are Arabs on the Israeli national side at all. Or that Arabs were representing the Israeli national team even while Protestants were still de facto excluded from the Irish one.

They may be surprised to learn Israeli Arabs are not just represented at all levels of Israeli football, but in Israeli society too. Although things are not perfect for the Arab minority, they are a lot better than for minorities in almost every other country in Asia, as well as many European countries. Israel has Arab members of parliament representing most parties, including the Likud, Arab professors and industrialists, Arab doctors and ambassadors, Arabs serving in the army, and so on.



But this isn't the impression many in Europe like to hold of Israel. For example, some Irish media, egged on by The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign argued that Ireland shouldn't play in "Apartheid Israel."


Knowing next to nothing about geopolitics and the virtual apartheid that does actually exist between different ethnic groups in many countries throughout Asia, Africa and beyond (try voting or owning property in a 'moderate' state like Kuwait, for example, if you weren't born to the right tribal group), the Irish group instead stated: "The Irish people should not allow Israel to use the football field to represent and assert its apartheid politics in front of the international community."

But many Irish fans were not that easily fooled by this propaganda. Over 3,000 Irish soccer fans disregarded the call, arriving from Dublin for the match on specially chartered flights. They also toured Israel, visiting Jerusalem's Via Dolorosa, and other sites.



Although there many international world cup qualifiers played yesterday, such was the footballing importance of Israel holding France (the 1998 world champions) to a draw last night that today's international papers generally lead with the Israeli-France match rather than the other matches. Yet apart from in the Italian press today and in one or two other countries slightly more sympathetic to Israel, hardly any European papers mention that Israel's goalscorer was again an Arab. The very same newspapers that have recently carried articles suggesting that Israel was an "apartheid society" unsurprisingly neglected to mention in their match reports that Israel's scorers were Arabs.

In contrast to many European papers, the Arab publication Al Bawaba had no inhibitions about mentioning how Jews and Arabs play together in Israel. (See the article below titled "Arab striker goal keeps alive Israel's World Cup chances.")



Israel's Football Association and an Irish Jewish group made an official complaint after Irish television commentators spoke over the Hatikvah (Israel's national anthem) during their coverage of the country's World Cup match last Saturday. A spokesman for Irish television later said: "We apologize for any offence caused. It was a mistake to talk over the anthem."



Last week, the French national goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez, announced that he wouldn't go to go to Tel Aviv as a political protest against Israeli policies. In the end, he went, and The Jerusalem Post published a sarcastic headline: "'Fabien the Brave' lands in Israel."

The French goalkeeper was booed throughout last night's match. According to eyewitness reports, the booing was led by French Jews who living in Israel and were furious with him for his anti-Israel comments.



Israel remains undefeated after six matches in Group 4 of 2006 World Cup qualifying. Last night’s draw means France and Israel jointly lead the group with 10 points, followed by Switzerland – which won 1-0 last night against Cyprus – and Ireland, both with 9 points.

Israel's next two games will decide her fate, since the last two games against the Faroe Islands should be foregone conclusions. This is the tightest European group for qualification to the World Cup in Germany of 2006.

The group winner will advance to the Finals automatically, as will the two best second-place teams out of the eight European groups. The remaining six second-place teams enter a playoff round for the final three spots. Israel has not qualified for a World Cup since 1970.

Israel's remaining games are:
June 4: Rep of Ireland V. Israel
September 3: Switzerland V. Israel
September 7: Faroe Islands V. Israel
October 8: Israel V. Faroe Islands



As predicted in the dispatch of March 17, 2005 (World's top soccer coach Jose Mourinho to visit Israel), a large number of foreign journalists followed Jose Mourinho, the world’s most talked about soccer coach, on his trip to Israel last weekend.

"We are here because of all the affairs Mourinho is involved in," said Andy Dillon of the English daily The Sun. "Mourinho fills our back pages every day and we will come as far as Israel to cover him," he said.

Dillon was one of 200 journalists who flew in specially to cover Mourinho's two-day trip, made at the invitation of the Peres Center for Peace and its "Twined Peace Soccer Schools."

Mourinho attended a "peace tournament" in Ramat Gan, saw 200 Israeli and Palestinian children play on mixed teams, and later coached a team of former sports stars and businessmen in a match against the Peres Center's mixed Palestinian-Israeli "Peace Team."

Mourinho also addressed some 150 football coaches from the Israeli first and second divisions, and then visited the Knesset as a guest of Labor MK Colette Avital, and the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Although Mourinho emphasized that his trip was to Israel (and indeed he didn't visit the Palestinian territories) some European media falsely portrayed the trip as a "solidarity visit" with the Palestinians.

I attach an article, below, from one of the papers (the English tabloid the Sun) that didn't falsely portray Mourinho's visit. Sven-Goran Eriksson, the England head coach, and Ronaldo, of Brazil and Barcelona have also been invited by Shimon Peres to Tel Aviv.

-- Tom Gross




IPSC Calls on FAI to Boycott Ireland-Israel Match in Tel Aviv
DUBLIN, March 26, 2005 (WAFA)

The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), called on the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) and on Irish players and supporters to boycott Ireland-Israel match in Tel Aviv on 26 March 2005, 2006 World Cup Qualifiers, in a protest against Israel''s continued refusal to respect Palestinian rights and International law.

In a statement issued under the title of "Irish soccer should show Israel Apartheid the Red Card", IPSC said that while Israeli sportsmen and women travel freely around the world, the Palestinian team has to surmount a labyrinth of checkpoints and border crossings just to play their "home" matches overseas.

"A boycott of the games will sharpen attention on Apartheid Israel's illegal occupation and continuing colonization of the Palestinian people and their land", IPSC said.

Referring to the Impact of Israeli Apartheid on Palestinian football, IPSC said that Israeli authorities regularly prevent Palestinian players from attending international games.

"In September 2004, five players were prevented from traveling to the World Cup qualifier against Uzbekistan. Unable to play in Palestine, the team travels to Doha, Qatar, for "home" games and trains in Ismailia, Egypt, more than 100 miles from the local Gaza players'' homes", IPSC said.

"Israel's labyrinth of checkpoints makes just getting to and from training a journey fraught with danger. Players from the West Bank have to circumvent Israel''s Apartheid Wall, take a bus to Amman (Jordan) and then fly to Cairo to meet up with their Gazan teammates. Traveling within the Gaza Strip can take hours because of the checkpoints. For instance, it took Palestinian players 40 hours to get to Rafah from the Egyptian border after last year''s Uzbekistan match. Despite these hurdles, their recent success has inspired tens of thousands of Palestinian children to hope that there can be a future beyond the latest Israeli curfew", IPSC added.

IPSC also revealed that the future generations and sporting talent is being wasted by illegal Israeli occupation, restrictions on movement and collective punishment.

IPSC called upon the Irish soccer players and supporters to stand up for justice and human rights by boycotting the soccer matches between Ireland and Israel.

"The Irish people should not allow Israel to use the football field to represent and assert itself, with its occupation and apartheid politics, in front of the international community. Irish football should not allow players and supporters to be manipulated as political pawns by a criminal Israeli regime which shows a total disregard for International Law by continuing to imprison the Palestinian people behind an 8-metre high Apartheid wall built on stolen Palestinian land, while at the same time pretending to engage in peace talks", IPSC said.

IPSC made it clear that Solidarity activists from other countries in the qualifying group, Switzerland, France and the Faroe Islands, have also begun mobilizing public condemnation against the world''s last Apartheid regime.



Arab striker goal keeps alive Israel's World Cup chances
Al Bawaba
March 27, 2005

Sometimes sports and politics mingle, and when they do – sparks can be seen for great distances. One such example can be highlighted by a recent soccer game held in the Ramat Gan Stadium, near Tel Aviv in which a last gasp goal from Israeli Arab player Abbas Suwan held Ireland 1-1 and threw World Cup qualifying Group 4 wide open.

Residents of Sakhnin, an Arab town in northern Israel, were enthusiastically celebrating in the streets Saturday night after local hero Abbas Suwan, "Abnaa Sakhnin" striker, scored a very dramatic last-minute goal to lift Israel to a 1:1 draw against Ireland.

The Irish team led throughout the game after an early goal, but an extremely powerful drive by Suwan in the 90th minute found the left side, keeping Israel in a good position in its World Cup qualifiers pool. Israel's prospects of reaching the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany were rescued by this dramatic 91st-minute equalizer.

Following the exciting game, Suwan mentioned it was his first goal for the national Israeli team and added he hoped more will come in the future.

It should be noted that just about a month ago, Suwan was heavily booed by Jerusalem's Beitar fans in a friendly match against Croatia, because he is Arab. Beitar is widely identified with the Israeli Right-Wing.

Saturday's spectacular goal, however, was the appropriate answer to all those who booed, Suwan said. He stated that the goal was his answer to the racists. "After what happened to me in Jerusalem, it was very moving to hear 40,000 fans cheering me. The goal is dedicated to everyone in Israel. It is time to stop talking of Jews and Arabs; we are all one people," he made clear.

"I thank everyone who cheered on the national team and made no distinction between Arabs and Jews," he said. "Everyone hugged me in the dressing room because they remembered what had happened."

In the meantime, an array of fireworks lit up the skies of Sakhnin, where a convoy of honking cars made its way to Suwan's house minutes after the game ended. Suwan's father, Abu Ahmed, said he could not express the excitement he felt in words.

"It's worth more than a million dollars," he said. "The honor he brought to the town, the (Arab) sector, and the entire country, is worth all the money in the world."

Suwan's wife, Tsafa, was the first to call him and congratulate him on the dramatic goal. "You brought great joy to all your fans and to an entire nation," she told him. Suwan's brother, Assam, said the family was very proud of him. "It's great pride, to have the entire country talking about my brother," he said. "You cannot ask for more".



French goalie changes his mind
March 27, 2005

Fabien Barthez says he will play in Israel, despite announcing his plans not to travel with teammates last week
By Tomer Ganor,7340,L-3063949,00.html

France's national soccer team goalie Fabien Barthez has decided to join his teammates and will travel to Israel for a World Cup qualifier match against Israel's national team, despite announcing his decision last week to boycott the match due to his political view of IDF activity in the West Bank and Gaza.

"I'll come to Israel, it's alright, there's no problem. All in all we're supposed to play soccer there," he said in a news conference. "I know we'll be provided with tight security in Israel, I'm a professional and I'm willing to play there."

Barthez is currently training with his fellow teammates at the Clairefontaine training camp near Paris, in preparation for next weeks match.

France's forward Thierry Henri, who did not play in the match against Switzerland because of an injury, is also set to join the rest of the French squad for the planned match in Israel on Wednesday.

After a disappointing 0:0 draw with Switzerland on Saturday, French captain Patrick Vieria said he was still optimistic about his team's chances of reaching the World Cup.

"Luckily, the game between Israel and Ireland ended in a draw," he said. "We're coming to Israel on Wednesday to win."

In Israel, residents of the Arab-Israeli town of Sakhnin celebrated in the streets Saturday night after local hero Abbas Suwan scored a dramatic last-minute goal to lift Israel to a 1:1 draw against Ireland.

The Irish team led throughout the game after an early goal, but a powerful drive by Suwan in the 90th minute found the left corner, keeping Israel in a good position in its World Cup qualifiers pool.

In initial comments after the game, Suwan said it was his first goal for the national team and added he hoped more would follow.



Jose never felt so humble
By Andrew Dillon
The Sun
March 29, 2005,,2-2005141163,00.html

Cocky Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho yesterday admitted he felt "humbled" by a visit to Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall.

Mourinho, 42, left a private prayer to God on a slip of paper at the holy Jewish site.

He then made his own peace mission to Tel Aviv to coach mixed teams of Palestinian and Israeli kids.

Mourinho – who has been blasted as arrogant by Premiership rivals – said: "Sometimes people who work in football start to believe they're important.

"Coming here is like coming back to reality. It makes you feel humble."
Catholic Mourinho – who earns £[pounds] 5million a year – wore a traditional Jewish skullcap at the Wall. He then met a Rabbi who was blowing a ritual ram's horn instrument called a Shofar.

He was invited by the Peres Peace Centre which promotes harmony in Israel by running mixed football teams.

The Portuguese manager joined the organisation's founder – ex-Israeli PM Shimon Peres – to train the kids.

Mourinho said: "Football has a magical power. I'm happy to be able to use that power to help this cause."

Mr Peres said: "Football is war without bloodshed." Mourinho – who faces European soccer chiefs on disciplinary charges this week – brought presents from Chelsea and gave medals to the youngsters, aged from six to ten.

He added: "From now on, if there is anything I can do to help, I will."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.