June 29, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 110

PA Opposition to Normalization With Israel

June 29, 2000
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 110

On May 25th, 2000, the Peres Center for Peace organized a fundraising event in Rome which included a football [soccer] match between a joint Israeli - Palestinian team and a team of Italian celebrities. Israeli Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat, among others, attended the event. At the same time, the Peres Center sponsored another joint Israeli-Palestinian project: a course for athletic trainers in Jericho.

The two events met with strong opposition from Palestinian officials and columnists, led by the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. The main argument raised by the critics was that the present political circumstances are delicate and problematic at present, and therefore normalization in the field of sports is hardly reasonable. The criticism included attacks on the Peres Center.

"'No' to Athletic Normalization"

In his column entitled "Red Card," Bassam Abu-'Agha writes: "What are we going to play about? Their [i.e. Israel's] peace is not ours. Have they fulfilled the demands for peace? I have a thousand reservations about that peace. The least they can do is give us what they agreed to, then we will be able to talk about competing with them or about attending lectures and courses with them."

"These destructive ideas must be buried young, and those who raise them must be punished… We repeat: 'no' to athletic normalization. We can learn from Egypt: they signed an agreement with the occupiers back in 1979, yet they did not normalize, and never played with [the Israelis]. Why should we do that, when all we signed was a DOP [Declaration of Prinicipals], and this cancer still burns us?"[1]

Badr Makki, Secretary General of the PLO Football Association, referred to the recent violent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis and attacked the Peres Center: "…This must be a joke. They want to show that we are all part of the peace and that its achievements are many. I don't know what they are talking about: the settlements are spreading, Jerusalem is filling with Jews, the refugee issue is becoming a central problem, and the negotiations are becoming a dialogue of the deaf…"

"The trash can of History is large enough [to contain] the descendants of apes [i.e. the Jews] and the weak from our [own] side… What will the Arabs say about the 'People of the Giants' [i.e. the Palestinians] who trust the other side [Israel] and lie down in its lap? [They will say:] they will never be [true] Arabs."[2]

"When the Zionists invaded Beirut in 1982… the 'RPG kids' stopped the Israeli tanks at the gates of the Rashidiya Camp, later to become a legend. In the same year, Italy won the World Cup and deposited it in the hands of the PLO for a week to express its sympathy with the Palestinian people. Now I hear that Italy is hosting a friendly match between Palestinians and Israelis under the title 'Football for Peace'…"

"Despite the confusion… we will continue to struggle for the principles of the revolution. The principles [of 1965 - the PLO's official anniversary] will be in our heart as long as it beats… The joy of the martyr's mother strengthens me, the stone throwing makes me float, the prisoners' steadfastness spurs me on. To the normalization supporters I say: enough!… History will not have mercy [on you]. You opportunists [will be cast] to hell…"[3]

Makki directed some criticism towards the Peres Center and its role in organizing the event: "Since when is Shimon Peres a believer in peace?" asks Badir Makki. "We know that his Center collects money at the expense of our people. Certainly, he serves his own interests. Where is the peace he is talking about?…"[4]

Attacks on the Peres Center

Columnist Kheiri Abu-Zaid writes: "The big scheme was planned by low-spirited Palestinians and organized for the sake of money in satanic ways, together with the so-called Peres Center for Peace…. This suspicious Center waves banners of peace but is as far from it as east is from west. What role does [the Peres Center] play against affronts of the occupation regime commits against our sportsmen, who are prohibited from [freely] crossing their homeland?"[5]

Another attack on the Peres Center came from columnist Ghazi Gharib: "Palestinian football has only one address: the PLO Football Association. Neither the Peres Center nor John Doe's Pigeon Center."

"We must reject any joint Palestinian- Israeli athletic activity…. Our banner is comprehensive peace based upon justice, which will achieve all of our national and legal rights… This is how we and our family athletes perceive peace. Anything other than that would be a deviation from the firm convictions of the [Palestinian] people and its leadership."[6]

The PLO Association of Sports Correspondents published the following statement: "While Israel ignores our national and legal rights to a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital… an irresponsible group of Palestinian football trainers is about to participate in a training course in Jericho, organized by the so-called 'Peres Center for Peace.' The Sports Correspondents Association denounces this irresponsible behavior and demands that the PLO Football Association investigate this event and expose those responsible..."[7]

[1] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 17, 2000.

[2] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 17, 2000.

[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 18, 2000.

[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 17, 2000.

[5] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 20, 2000.

[6] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 17, 2000.

[7] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 18, 2000.

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