Press Release 13 February 2007

Once again Glasgow Rangers FC finds itself as Scotland’s football ambassador in Israel.

Wednesday’s match against Hapoel Tel Aviv, should of course, not be happening. It defies all logic that FIFA, UEFA and the SFA should countenance the presence of any Israeli football team in its fixture list. By doing so, these football bodies legitimise the actions of the state of Israel – a state which, by the actions of its military personnel, destroys the lives of young, aspiring Palestinian footballers, destroys their limited training facilities, forbids players in the Palestinian national team from attending training and fixture opportunities.

Above all, the actions of the state of Israel are normalised by the presence of a Scottish team. A brutal military occupation of 40 years, the brutal subjugation of a people would appear to be irrelevant in the eyes of FIFA, UEFA and the SFA.

However, this trip by a Scottish premier football team provides an opportunity for the SFA and its members to start the process of questioning their actions.

Scottish Friends of Palestine urges members of the team and any home supporters to make the effort to visit the West Bank village of Kafr Aqab where, like all visitors to occupied Palestine, not bearing a gun, not under the protection of the occupier, you will be welcome.

Once there, ask for Mahmoud Aljawi, the father of 16 year old Taha. He will tell you about his son – a good boy, the kind of boy who goes with his father to pray in the morning and evening. He was Jerusalem-born, the bearer of a blue(Israeli) ID card. Taha Aljawi, a nice kid from Jerusalem, not yet 17 at his death about two weeks previously

Ask how he died and you will be told that he died playing football. Shot through the leg and left to bleed to death in agony. Then visit the scene of his death, a muddy ditch near the boundary fence of what was once designated Jerusalem’s airport. You won’t be shot at. Your football regalia will attract the attention of the soldiers or Border Police in the nearby watchtower. The soldiers will also be friendly, keen to chat about football – although the occasion will turn sour if you dare ask about the death of Taha and why they shot a young boy playing football near the fence.

The soldiers will give a reason, as the Israeli military already have. Allegedly they saw four youths behaving suspiciously . . . . . . . so instead of sending out a jeep to investigate, a sniper saved them the trouble. You may even be told, such is the endemic racism, that the young boy was only a Palestinian, so why be concerned?

But concerned everyone should be. There will be no peace in Israel/Palestine and the wider Middle East until children and young people like Taha can live without a miltary occupier deciding who lives and who dies, who goes to school, to see the doctor, to see their grandparents in a nearby village and who does not.

Increasingly, it is evident that the state of Israel will only take notice when the international community boycotts all of its activities. There should be no Scottish football presence in Israel on Wednesday night.


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