Football diplomacy

Saturday night promises to be a very lively affair.  I’m told television sets in every city, in every country in Europe will be turned to the European Football Cup Championship. My friends and I have already staked out the bar where we will watch the game in the Sultanahmet District in the Old City of Istanbul.

Football has become an explosive issue in the Middle East thanks to Israel’s detention and incarceration of Mahmoud Sarsak, the Palestinian football star.

Mahmoud Sarsak's relatives gather around poster

As he was leaving Gaza in July 2009 on his way to the West Bank to play football, Israeli officials arrested Sarsak and held him for the next THREE YEARS without formal charges being filed against him.  Israel claimed he was linked to the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, which Sarsak denied.  Perhaps Israel just wanted to side-line a promising athlete’s career.  That’s one way to beat the opposition.

Stadium in Gaza

Stadium in Gaza

Another way to beat them is to destroy the opposition’s stadium so they become demoralized and have no place to practice, as Israel did in November 2012 during their 8-day bombardment in Gaza.

Stadium in Gaza destroyed by Israel in November 2012.

Stadium in Gaza destroyed by Israel in Nov. 2012.

Stadium in Gaza destroyed by Israel in November 2012.

Stadium in Gaza destroyed by Israel in Nov. 2012.

Stadium in Gaza destroyed by Israel in November 2012.

Stadium in Gaza destroyed by Israel in Nov. 2012.

Sarsak was finally released in July 2012 after a three-month hunger strike during which he lost nearly 1/2 of his normal body weight. Check out this video of his release.

The Under-21 Football Tournament is scheduled to be held in Israel in early June 2013.  There is a growing chorus of opposition urging officials to move the tournament out of Israel.  Sarsak has added his voice to this campaign too.

So long as Israel can detain Palestinians without charge indefinitely, and not be held accountable, I think the world should boycott Israel.

And I think the Palestinians should buy some air time on the major networks Saturday night when all of those eyeballs are glued to their sets.

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Filed under Football - Soccer, Gaza, Israel, People

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