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Football, racism and anti-Zionism - David Hirsh
Added by David Hirsh on April 20, 2006 10:08:02 AM.
West Ham United has two Israeli players. When West Ham took their team for a few days relaxation and training in the desert sun of Dubai, they sent their two Israelis off to Spain for a break. Israelis, you see, are not welcome in the United Arab Emirates. Bolton Wanderers left their Israeli player at home when they visited Dubai earlier in the season.

There is nothing new about sports teams bowing to the racist policies of states that they visit. The USA olympic team left a number of Jews at home when they visited Berlin in 1936.

The English cricketing authorities tried to find a way of leaving Basil D'Olivera, who was classified as "coloured" by the apartheid regime, at home when they were due to tour South Africa in 1970. In the end they were forced to cancel the tour rather than bow to the South African government who wanted to choose who could play cricket for England.

West Ham and Bolton quietly acquiesced to the racist policy of the United Arab Emirates without making a fuss. I wonder what the MP for West Ham's neighbouring constituency, Bethnal Green and Bow, well known anti-racist George Galloway, will have to say about the Hammers' craven attitude to the racist policy of UAE.

Emirates airlines have sponsored the new Arsenal stadium in a 100m deal. Arsenal, one presumes, will be allowing Israelis to play football at the Emirates Stadium.

But the so-called "Palestine Solidarity Campaign" are not happy with Arsenal because they have also done a 350,000 advertising deal with the Israeli tourist board. Nobody opposed the lash-up between Arsenal and the United Arab Emirates - where women do not vote and where men's votes do not determine the government - and where significantly less than half of the population are not deemed to be citizens of the state.

But the PSC howls about the Israel deal. It urges us to contact Arsenal and "remind" them that Israel is a racist apartheid state (perhaps Arsenal had forgotten?). PSC also proposes to pressurise the FA's successful anti-racist campaign, Kick It Out, to take a stand against this deal with the Israeli "apartheid" state.

In 2001, the UN organised a global conference against racism in Durban, with a parallel conference for NGOs. The Israel-haters managed to prevent both of these global conferences from doing anything useful about racism anywhere in the world. They did this by insisting that the greatest manifestation of global racism was "Zionism". They took over both of these conferences and used them to denounce Israel - and to insist that everyone else denounces Israel. The result was that nothing useful came out of either of these conferences on anti-racism. Now the PSC risks destroying the Kick It Out Campaign in the same way.

Footballer John Barnes, who knows what it is like to face 20,000 people making monkey noises at him because he is black, clearly does not think that Kick It Out should be destroyed in this way. He was in Israel a few weeks ago launching Israel's version of the Kick It Out Campaign against racism amongst football fans. Their slogan is "Lets Kick Racism Out of Football". This campaign has been hugely successful in helping to transform British football from the state it was in when John Barnes was a young player. Hopefully it can help to do a similar job in Israel - where such a campaign is much needed.

While those that are in favour of boycotting Israel would prefer anti-racists not to campaign against racism in Israel, John Barnes obviously disagrees.

Barnes visited Israel only a week after the Palestine Solidarity Campaign began its effort to transform the Kick It Out Campaign from the successful anti-racist organisation that it is into a squalid Israel-hating machine.

David Hirsh

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