"May this Championship make the beautiful game a force for peace, rather than bringing the Middle East conflict onto its pitch and terraces."
Paris, 21 May 2013
In a letter to UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) President, Michel Platini, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, slammed the call by 'electronic intifada.net' for UEFA to "remove its Under-21 European Championship from Israel, where it is scheduled to play from 5 to 18 June."
Samuels argued that "'electronic intifada.net' is, apparently, an arm to wage a boycott of the Jewish State through universities, trade unions, cultural agencies, NGOs and, indeed, sport."
He added that "the Simon Wiesenthal Centre has long been active in combating racism and hate, especially in European and Latin American football."
The letter noted that:
- "on the pitch and from its terraces, Jews, Blacks, Muslims and migrants share the taunts of neo-Nazis.
- the ideological forebears of today's racists, in Nazi Germany, had 'ethnically cleansed' sports, as blatantly demonstrated in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
- Jews, especially, were the object of boycott as Hitler Youth stormed their stores to the screams of 'Kaufen nicht bei Juden' (Buy not from Jews)!
- anti-Jewish boycott has now returned, in the guise of the so-called 'B.D.S.' (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign to de-legitimize the State of Israel.
- its latest emanation will gather on Friday 24 May, outside the UEFA Congress in London, where extreme-left and Islamist radicals will join the extreme-right in antisemitic calls to cancel the UEFA Under-21 European Championship and to agitate for member football associations to boycott the event.
- similar intimidation measures attempted to isolate Chelsea midfielder, Yossi Benayoun, through Twitter and threats from Malaysian Islamists.
- likewise, such incitement resulted in an attack last year against an Austrian Rabbi outside the Vienna stadium."
Samuels pointed out that "the '11 Key Values' of UEFA's mission statement include: respect for diversity... tolerance against racism and violence... football unites people and transcends differences."
The letter highlighted "a little known factor inculcating these values, which are the Israeli-Arab football clubs, hailed by fans throughout the Arab world — best known among them, is an Israel State Cup Champion, B’nei Sakhnin. In 2004, they became the first Arab team to ever play in Europe—it was the UEFA Cup. Their Doha Stadium in the Galilee was financed by the Emir of Qatar. The acclaimed 2010 documentary, 'After the Cup: Sons of Sakhnin United', features Arabs from Israel, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, attending the Cup match."
It continued, "surely they should be feted as a vehicle for peace, rather than voices for conflict such as electronic intifadas. Intifada brought suicide terrorism to the cities and streets of Israel...From the Middle East, the scourge of indiscriminate murder in the name of Jihad was to spread across the globe, even targeting sports—most recently at the Boston Marathon."
Samuels stressed that, "'Intifada' has become a fig leaf for terrorists, as 'anti-Zionism' is a cover for antisemitism; threats and boycotts from electronic intifadas are tantamount to incitement to violence," suggesting that, "when these target European football, UEFA must act to condemn them in the name of its '11 key values'."
"Our Centre congratulates UEFA in selecting Israel for its 2013 Under-21 European Championship and wishes the best to all the participating teams. May this Championship make the beautiful game a force for peace, rather than bringing the Middle East conflict onto its pitch and terraces," concluded Samuels.