Cii Broadcasting/Electronic Intifada (14-06-12)
Eric Cantona and other major public figures including FIFA President Sepp Blatter have joined the growing international calls on Israel to free imprisoned Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak and end its abuses of human rights.
After coming close to death on Sunday, Sarsak has agreed to take milk only until today(Thursday) when the Israeli Supreme Court is due to review his case.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter urges Israel to act to save Sarsak
FIFA president Sepp Blatter called on the Israeli Football Association (IFA) to urge the Israeli government to act to save Sarsak, whom Blatter said, “is in a very delicate state due to the fact that he has been undergoing a hunger strike for approximately 90 days in protest of his alleged illegal detention.”
The statement read:
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter expressed today (12 June) grave concern and worry about the alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players.
The reports FIFA received state that in apparent violation of their integrity and human rights and without the apparent right of a due process (trial), several Palestine football players have allegedly been illegally detained by Israeli authorities. In particular, the mentioned reports refer to the Palestine player Mahmoud Sarsak, whose health is in a very delicate state due to the fact that he has been undergoing a hunger strike for approximately 90 days in protest of his alleged illegal detention.
Due to the aforementioned graveness of the situation, FIFA urgently calls on IFA to draw the attention of the Israeli competent authorities to the present matter, with the aim of ensuring the physical integrity of the concerned players as well as their right for due process. The matter came to FIFA’s attention following correspondence with the Palestine Football Association, several international media reports concerning the football player Mahmoud Sarsak and a FIFPro media release.
Professional Footballers call on Israel to Free Sarsak
On Friday, FIFPro, the international association of 50,000 professional football players called on Israel to free Sarsak. Its statement reads:
Friday 8 June
FIFPro, the voice of all professional footballers in the world, demands that Mahmoud Sarsak be released from prison. The Palestinian national team player has been imprisoned by the Israeli government for three years without any trial.
On 22 July 2009 Sarsak – who lives in Rafah in the Gaza Strip – was arrested at a checkpoint when he was on his way to the West Bank for a match with his national team. He was interrogated for thirty days and then imprisoned without any trial or a precise legal charge. Family and friends are not allowed to visit him. They do not know why he is being detained for already nearly three years.
According to the Israeli government he is an illegal combatant and therefore they can imprison him indefinitely.
To protest against his condition and lack of civil liberties, Sarsak currently is on a hunger strike. The 25-year old footballer has not eaten for 85 days and has lost approximately thirty kilos in weight. According to human rights organisation Addameer the situation of Mahmoud is critical.
FIFPro is deeply concerned about Sarsak’s health and about his imprisonment and therefore asks for his release from jail.
FIFPro is also very concerned about the situation of many other professional footballers in Palestine. Sarsak is not the only player who is suffering from the actions of the Israeli government. There are stories of other players who have been harassed, arrested or even killed.
For many players in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement.
‘The freedom of movement is a fundamental right of every citizen’, says Philippe Piat, FIFPro’s vice-president and president of FIFPro Division Europe. ‘It is also written down in the FIFA Regulations that players must be allowed to play for the national team of their country.’
‘But actually for some footballers it is impossible to defend the colours of their country. They cannot cross the border. They cannot visit their family. They are locked up. This is an injustice.’
Last year FIFPro paid two visits to Palestine to visit the footballers, to talk about their problems and to talk about the establishment of a professional footballers’ association in Palestine.
Football legend Eric Cantona, other public figures join campaign for Sarsak
Football legend Eric Cantona has co-signed a letter with other international figures including Noam Chomksy, filmmaker Ken Loach, international law expert John Dugard to UK Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, UEFA President Michel Platini and other European government and sporting bodies to protest Israel’s actions and the complicity of international sporting bodies.
The letter, the text of which was provided to The Electronic Intifada by bdsmovement.net in an email release states:
We are all shocked at the racist chanting at football matches in Poland and Ukraine where Euro 2012 is being played. Footballing bodies and politicians have been outspoken in their condemnation. Indeed some government officials are boycotting group stage matches in Ukraine because of perceived human rights abuses in that country.
So why are these same groups silent when Israel is to host the U.E.F.A. Under 21s competition in 2013? Racism, human rights abuses and gross violations of international law are daily occurrences in that country.
Israeli government ministers respond to mob attacks on black refugees by denouncing them as ‘infiltrators’ and calling for them to be imprisoned in military camps.
Israeli jails house around 4,000 Palestinian political prisoners, more than 300 of them “administrative detainees” held without charge or trial. One of these is a footballer from Gaza, Mahmoud Sarsak, aged 25. He has been imprisoned for nearly three years. No charge, no trial. In desperation, he has been on hunger strike for more than 80 days and is now close to death. He, and all victims of abuse by the Israeli state, need our support.
It is time to end Israel’s impunity and to insist on the same standards of equality, justice and respect for international law that we demand of other states.’
FULL LIST OF SIGNATORIES, SIGNING IN PERSONAL CAPACITY:
- Eric Cantona, actor and former footballer
- Noam Chomsky, Professor MIT, USA
- John Dugard, Former Special Rapporteur of UN on Palestine, South Africa
- Trevor Griffiths, Writer, UK
- Paul Laverty, Screenwriter, UK
- Ken Loach, Filmmaker, UK
- Michael Mansfield, QC, UK
- Miriam Margolyes OBE, Actor, UK
- John Pilger, Journalist, author, film maker, Australia
- Show Racism the Red Card
- Ahdaf Soueif, Writer, UK
Global Soccer Icons have track record of supporting Palestinians
Portuguese national squad captain and Real Madrid striker Christiano Ronaldo as well as 2011 World Footballer of the Year Lionel Messi have also been or record pledging their support for Palestine.
Ronaldo showed his concern to the Palestinian children in Gaza by donating his sports shoes to a Palestinian kids foundation. According to the Arabic site of Real Madrid’s network, the shoes, which turned out in public auction, was later sold for € 2,400, with the first bidding of €700. The money from the auction will be used to build children’s school in Gaza.
It was not the first time Ronaldo showed his support for Palestinians. When he was still with Manchester United, Ronaldo was photographed wearing a Palestinian muffler, the kufiyyeh, as a support for Palestinian cause.
Recently, Lionel Messi was also photographed sporting a T-Shirt with a pro-Palestinian slogan
Frédéric Oumar Kanouté, a French-born Malian footballer who currently plays for Mes Kerman is also a leading advocate for Palestinian rights. After scoring a goal in a 7 January 2009 Copa Del Rey match against Deportivo La Coruña, Kanouté lifted his jersey and displayed a black shirt underneath emblazoned with the word “Palestine”. The action was interpreted as a protest against the massive Israeli army operation in the Gaza Strip ongoing at that time. Kanouté was cautioned with a yellow card for displaying a political message, and subsequently fined around $4,000 by the league.
He recently tweeted in solidarity with Mahmoud Sarsak as well.
Other Famous Footballers supporting Palestine
Tags: Cantona, FIFA, Football, Hunger Strike, Israel, Messi, Palestine, Prisoners, Ronaldo, Sarsak, Soccer