Soccer has no borders

Ihmoud%27s+Moods

Ihmoud's Moods

By Media Relations Editor

Athletes are students of the game they play. Practice facilities serve as a classroom where they can learn and hone their craft, and, though it seems silly to say, no one’s safety should be in question as they travel to and from practice. 

Palestinian soccer players Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were returning from practice and meeting friends in the West Bank Jan. 31 when Israeli forces opened fire on them and subsequently released police dogs without warning. The young men were then dragged across the ground and beaten, according to multiple news sources. The two Palestinian players were taken to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem where the bullets were surgically removed during multiple operations. Jawhar was shot 11 times.

The two will be reevaluated in six months to determine if they will ever walk again. Neither of the two will ever play soccer again, said Jibril Rajoub, chairman of the Palestinian Football Association in an Inside World Football article Feb 14

According to an Israeli Border Police spokesman, the Palestinians tried to throw bombs at the policemen, a Haaretz article reported Feb. 3. The report also stated that the policemen sent a picture of the bomb to the organization. The men denied this in the same story. 

The Chronicle reached out to the Israeli Consulate for verification and comment but there has been no response as of press time. 

Israel’s security forces control movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Palestinian athletes are frequently unable to travel freely between the separated territories.

The Palestinian Football Association is a part of the Asian Football Confederation, meaning it will have more regional matches, but it has complained that Israel has gone so far as stopping players from a third country from entering the West Bank.

Rajoub is seeking Israel’s expulsion from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association at the next Congress in June, according to InsideWorldFootball.com. 

Rajoub said he would not back down unless Israel eases travel restrictions on players and officials attending matches and practices, according to the article. Rajoub told Inside World Football that he has the support of Iran, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Algeria and Tunisia. 

Joseph Blatter, president of FIFA, wants Palestine and Israel to sign a cooperation agreement at the FIFA Congress. However, Rajoub said he would only sign if Israel eases its brutality, but Israel is far from admitting its methods are illegal and do more harm than good. 

Rajoub, an official in the Palestine Authority and a member of the Fatah Central Committee, which has long protected Palestinian nationalism, has already met with Blatter and Israel’s Football Association President Avi Luzon.  The two discussed the traveling restrictions put on non-Israelis traveling to and from Palestine for soccer purposes; however, the recent attacks on Palestinians may have decreased the chances of the two sides coming to an agreement. 

If Israel fails to lift traveling restrictions, FIFA will have an easy decision to make. Soccer, the most popular sport in the world, should be accessible to all. 

Palestinians and Israelis should be able to play side by side, and having checkpoints and border patrol between villages does not promote a safe environment. The Palestinians are humans, too; they should be treated as such. 

Israel’s brutality and restrictions on Palestinian soccer players is an act of oppression, an attempt to bring fear to a community and put a stranglehold on their lives.

FIFA recognizes both countries as full members, and rightfully so. If Israel is going to continue to harm the game in Palestine, the soccer organization should stand up for all soccer players and consider severing ties with Israel. 

Nader Ihmoud is a Palestinian-American. Listen as he hosts The Benchwarmers Show Monday’s on WCRX 88.1 FM from 7 –9 p.m.