The campaign to kick Apartheid Israel out of FIFA stepped up a gear recently to coincide with the countryâs Euro 2008 qualifier against England in London. Thousands of people have now signed the petition on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign UKâs website, demanding FIFA, UEFA and the English FA cease all dealings with Israel until it complies with international law and ends the illegal occupation of Palestine. Prior to the match on 8th September, 300 demonstrators held a vigil outside Wembley stadium, protesting against Israel and also against the UK Foreign Officeâs decision to refuse the Palestinian Under 19 football team a visa allowing them to travel to the UK to undertake a tour.
Despite having a number of fixtures lined up including a match against Premiership team Blackburn Rovers, the U19 teamâs visa was refused for reasons âin line with current immigration policyâ, the Foreign Office claimed, yet did not specify the exact policy. This was despite the Foreign Office offering to help fund the scheme a number of weeks back as part of the CE Engagement with Islam programme.
A large number of people, including academics and councillors also signed a letter sent to The Times newspaper demanding the visa be granted and pointing out the double standards applied to Israel.
Whilst apartheid Israel continues to flout international law and commit grave human rights abuses in Palestine, their national team is allowed to partake in all relevant competitions and Israeli players allowed to live and work in the UK, playing for top Premiership clubs, yet the impoverished Palestinian players, many of whom live in Gaza, were inexplicably denied the chance to come and play in England and raise awareness of the Palestinian struggle.
Israel lost the qualifier by 3-0 and is now unlikely to qualify for Euro 2008, yet the protests against its participation will continue.