Wembley protest at denial of entry to youth Palestinian soccer team

By staff writers
September 11, 2007

Some 250 supporters of human rights gathered to protest at the new Wembley Stadium during the England-Israel qualifying match for the Euro 2008 competition - highlighting the plight of a Palestinian youth team denied a visa to visit Britain.

The vigil took place on Olympic Way from 3pm to 5pm. Jewish, Palestinian and other campaigners were present. Dozens of banners and placards displayed slogans such as: 'Show Racism the Red Card', 'Fair Play for the Palestinians' and 'Kick Israeli Apartheid Out of Football'.

Others, showing pictures of the Palestinian Football Youth team, denied entry to the UK two weeks ago, also highlighted Israel’s much condemned human rights record in the occupied territories.

Some activists are asking for Israel to be suspended from international football fixtures until it abides with international law. Others support a policy of critical engagement.

A spokesperson for the Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods Campaign, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi said: "We are here today because it is time Israel woke up to the fact that Jews around the world do not support racist policies designed to drive Palestinians off the remnants of their land."

She continued: "It's a myth that Israel acts only to protect security. On the contrary, they endanger us all. If Israel wants to be treated like other sporting nations, it must abide by international law and cease its daily infringements of Palestinian human rights."

Dozens of sports clubs and footballers from the Gaza Strip have sent messages of support to the campaign, as well as dozens of other organisations including the Palestinian Football Federation, Palestinian Basketball Federation, The Union of Social Workers and Psychologists, the Ibda'a Sport Club (Palestine Basketball Champions), the Bethlehem University Student Senate, the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine and the Jenin Branch of the PGFTU.

Ibrahim Sheikh, retired footballer and board member of the Gaza Sporting Club, and Mick Gosling, Chair of National Union of Journalists Press & PR Branch, backed calls for a boycott, citing the pressure mounted against South Africa when sport and politics were closely intertwined.

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