August 23 – Yet another Israeli intervention to prevent football played in the occupied territories has infuriated Palestinian officials.
More than 180 families were due to compete in a tournament last weekend in Jerusalem’s disputed old city.
But Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan reportedly ordered it to be cancelled because he said it was organised by the Palestinian Authority (PA) despite denials by the organisers.
“This is a social activity for the benefit of the Old City residents; it’s no shame to hold such activities, especially when the municipality doesn’t promote activities for East Jerusalem,” attorney Mohannad Gbara, who represents Burj al-Luqluq Society, the organisers of the tournament, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
Burj al-Luqluq Society maintain they have no connection to the PA and that Palestinian businessman Munir al-Kaloti funded the tournament.
“I think that pretty soon Minister Erdan will forbid the sale of Jerusalem sesame pretzels because they have Palestinian markings; they’ll issue closure orders against the pretzel wagons,” added Gbara sarcastically.
Meanwhile FIFA has been accused not for the first time of turning a blind eye to Israel’s ban on the Palestine Cup.
The second leg of the final between Balata FC and Khadamat Rafah, winners of the West Bank and Gaza leagues respectively, was due have taken place last month, the first leg having ended 1-1. But Israel denied exit permits to most of the Rafah players and team personnel.
In a statement Human Rights Monitor said that the Israeli authorities are continuing to ban 30 players from Rafah in violation of international law and of the FIFA principles which stress “the right to play”.
The Israeli occupation often prevents footballers from Gaza travelling to the West Bank but the Palestine Cup is recognised by FIFA, with the winner representing Palestine in the Asia Cup.
So far Israel has refused to reverse its decision, and a new date for the match has not been set.
“Israel is trying to prevent any connection between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, even in soccer, and always wraps everything in security reasons,” charged Palestine Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub who is himself serving a one-year ban for “inciting hatred and violence”.
“What security risk will there be when we’re talking about players wanting to go through the Erez crossing to a soccer match? The whole security matter is one big lie,” he added.
In response, Israeli reports quoted the country’s security agency Shin Bet as saying: “There is information linking most of the team members with terror.
“In light of the information that emerged in the security check, and against the backdrop of terror threats from the Gaza Strip … the recommendation of the Shin Bet was conveyed to the authorized official that entry be denied most of the team to Israeli territory for security reasons.”
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