A joint Israeli-Palestinian soccer match. (Peres Center for Peace) (Peres Center for Peace)
Israeli and Paletinian children meet for a soccer match sponsored by the Peres Center for Peace

A soccer game between children is usually perceived as a positive and productive activity. However, the Palestinian Authority views such a match between Israeli and Palestinian children as “a crime against humanity.”  

Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs.

Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Last week, Palestinian and Israeli boys met in southern Israel for a football match organized by Israel’s Peres Center for Peace. The Palestinian Authority (PA) daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reprinted an article from Agence France-Presse that described the match and the initiative in a positive light.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), however, exposed that the news of the joint sports activity with “the Zionist enemy” was not well received by the Fatah-controlled PA and Fatah party leaders.

In reaction to the friendly game, Jibril Rajoub, Deputy Secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee and head of the Palestinian Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs, stated: “Any activity of normalization in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime against humanity.”

In a Facebook post, Rajoub stated that “for awhile now the Palestinian sports leadership and community – the Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs, the Palestinian Olympic Committee and the Palestinian Football Association – have opposed such activities,” specifying that “normalization in sports with the Zionist occupation is a crime.” He demanded that “all individuals and institutions distance themselves from such activities, especially because their recurrence would arouse disgust and aversion towards all members of the [Palestinian] sports community.”

‘An Unpatriotic and Immoral Act’

Others called for an investigation and for the prosecution of the Palestinian organizers who agreed to the game with the Israelis. Denouncing the match as “a crime and an unpatriotic and immoral act,” Palestinian Olympic Committee member Abd Al-Salam Haniyeh demanded that Rajoub “immediately interrogate the organizers of the match, settle the account with them and prosecute them on charges of serious treason against the blood of the Martyrs [who died in the Gaza war] and violation of the decisions made by the Palestinian sports community’s leadership,” independent Palestinian news agency Sama reported earlier this month.

The National Committee against Normalization in Palestine “condemned the participation of children from the West Bank in a football match between Palestinian and Israeli children” and “called on the heads of the Palestinian sports [community] and the Palestinian leadership to discover who is behind this ‘normalization match.'” The Committee’s secretary-general, Jihad Uweida, expressed “surprise” and “astonishment” that Palestinians would “do Israel a free service” by participating in such an event at a time when the National Committee against Normalization in Palestine “is conducting an international campaign for expelling Israeli sports from the international sports system, and after international sports organizations expressed their intention of boycotting this entity [Israel].”

‘An Individual Act, Conceived by Sick Souls’

The leadership of Fatah’s branch in Yatta, the hometown of the boys participating in the match, held “an urgent meeting to discuss the ramifications of the normalization matches” and “strongly condemned” the event. Fatah branch secretary Dr. Kamal Makhamreh said that the participation in the match “was an individual act, conceived by sick souls that agreed to be humiliated for a handful of money,” and he “urged the residents to supervise their children and distance them from these kinds of activities, which damage our cause.” Another Fatah official, the Yatta branch spokesperson, Ma’an news agency reported that Muhammad Al-Birawi, said that Fatah “has demanded that the [Palestinian] Security Forces settle the account with these reckless people (i.e., the Palestinian organizers of the event).”

This is not the first time PA and Fatah leaders have opposed what they refer to as “normalization” with Israel in sports. In a video publicized by Palestinian Media Watch last year, Jibril Rajoub stated that he would fire any Palestinian sportsman who engages in “normalization” with Israel.

Author: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel