Wiesenthal Centre Urges UEFA to Resist Call to Boycott Israel

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Wiesenthal Centre Urges UEFA to Resist Call to Boycott Israel

Paris, 5 July 2007

In a letter to Michel Platini, President of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr Shimon Samuels, expressed "concern at a campaign, based in the United Kingdom, that calls upon UEFA to boycott the State of Israel, suspend its membership and ban all Israeli football activities within UEFA."

Samuels noted the detailed explanation of Israeli membership on the UEFA website, where it says: "In exceptional circumstances, a national football association that is situated in another continent may be admitted for membership, provided that it is not a member of the Confederation of that continent, or of any other Confederation, and that FIFA approves its membership of UEFA."

The website continues: "(Israel's) clubs were not given the chance to participate in club competitions under the umbrella of the Asian Football Confederation as most of the Arab countries objected to meeting Israeli teams. In an effort to contribute to the development of football and to give an opportunity to as many people as possible to enjoy the game, the UEFA Executive Committee decided to accept the application request."

Samuels pointed out that "Israel was admitted to UEFA in 1994, when the Oslo Treaty was signed with the Palestine Authority, granting it full autonomy over the Palestinian Territories. Despite these concessions for peace at that time, Israel was still the object of a full Arab boycott."

He added that "UEFA's definition of 'fairplay', as the foundation of football, demands that 'every effort should be made to behave in a sporting manner towards opponents, referees and any other persons involved in matches, such as spectators, officials of other clubs and associations...'"

The letter suggested that this principle "is a red card to hate, racism and exclusion on the football terraces and flies in the face of petitions to boycott any one state. This is especially redolent for the Jewish people, who were the victims of Nazi Germany's boycott, including from sports events. History has shown that what starts with Jews inevitably leads to exclusion of Blacks, Roma, homosexuals and all other targets of political agendas. Thus sport - as the international and inter-communal meeting ground on an equal plane - becomes a proxy for war and intolerance, to the detriment of fans worldwide."

Samuels cited Platini's opening speech to the UEFA Congress in Zurich on 28 May 2007, in which he pleaded for international football unity: "For too long, the football family has been torn by its internal struggles... It is
high time the football family made peace with each other."   

The Centre urged UEFA "to resist this petition campaign to boycott Israeli football," noting that "ironically, despite terrorism and sabotage of the peace process, it is through football that Israelis and Palestinians meet at friendly matches. Indeed, the mixed Arab-Jewish Israeli team of B'nai Sakhnin - financed by Qatar - is adulated by the fans of both peoples."

Samuels concluded, "UEFA must show a red card to hate and exclusion in order to encourage the moderate voices of the Middle East, and beyond, in their hopes for peace."

The letter was shared with Joseph S. Blatter, President of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), Brian Barwick, Chief Executive of the British Football Association (The FA), and Kurt Wachter, Director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) - FairPlay Network.

For further information, please contact Shimon Samuels at +33.609.77.01.58