MEMRI, June 29, 2000
Middle East Media & Research Institute (MEMRI)
is an independent, non-profit organization providing translations of the Arab media
and original analysis and research on developments in the Middle East.
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
“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.”
“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
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 (Official PA daily newspaper), 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.