The peace match played at Nou Camp Stadium in Spain between a joint Israel-Palestinian team and Barcelona may not have exactly set the field on fire. But the game has raised the hackles of some Palestinians, who say their cause has been compromised.
Jamal Muhesin, director-general of the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sport, said he was angry that some Palestinian sportsmen could agree to rub shoulders with Israeli athletes.
“Palestinian athletes, like all Palestinians, are constantly harassed and prevented from travelling outside their places of residence in the West Bank,” he said. “The world should come and see the ugly reality here, not be duped by the artificial rosy picture in Barcelona.”
Barcelona defeated the Israeli-Palestinian team 2-1 in front of a crowd of 31,820. The game was organised and financed by the Peres Centre for Peace and designed to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Some Palestinians say the joint Israel-Palestinian team portrayed a false sense of camaraderie.
Palestinian officials told Aljazeera.net that the event constituted an unacceptable and deceptive form of normalisation between “the occupied and the occupier”.
Officials from the Palestinian Olympic Committee, which supervises sports activities throughout the occupied territories, have distanced themselves from the event.
“The world should come and see the ugly reality here, not be duped by the artificial rosy picture in Barcelona”
“We are decidedly against this activity. Israel is killing our children, tormenting us on a daily basis and reducing our towns and villages to isolated ghettos. We must never take part in propagandistic activities aimed at blurring reality here,” said a spokesman of the committee.
Muhesin accused the Peres Centre for Peace of “trying to deceive the world by giving a false impression that things are all right between Palestinians and Israelis”.
“This so-called peace centre is trying to normalise an inherently abnormal situation,” he said.
Many more have joined the chorus of criticism.
Abd al-Nasser al-Sharif, an athletic official in southern West Bank, said athletic normalisation between Israel and the Palestinians would encourage normalisation between Israel and the Arab world.
“The Arabs would argue that ‘we can’t be more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves’ and eventually Israel will remain occupying our land and holy places while everybody is normalising with her as if everything is normal.
“We are shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The Palestinian Olympic
A spokesman for the Peres Centre for Peace, Alon Beer, told Aljazeera.net the trip to Spain by the joint Palestinian-Israeli football team was coordinated with the top echelon of the Palestinian Authority, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas and national security adviser Jebril Rajoub.
“Our goal is to bring as many Palestinian and Israeli children together. Nobody can accuse the Palestinians who are working with us of collaboration with Israel. Some of them spent many years in Israeli jails.”
Beer said the team’s trip to Spain was organised jointly by the Peres Centre for Peace and the Abu Shukr Sport Centre in Ram Allah.
The Abu Shukr Centre is run by Ahmed Jebara, who had spent many years in an Israeli prison.