Sports exemplify joy, pride and community. For a people without a recognised country, the Palestinian national football team is a source of huge pride. Any harm done to the players damages the dream that the national team will one day have a home to call its own.
For two Palestinian footballers from the occupied West Bank, however, the dream will be fulfilled by someone else. Adam Jamous (17) and Jawhar Nasser Jawhar (19) will never step onto a football pitch in a competitive game again thanks to the Israeli occupation.
On their way home from a training session at the Faisal Al-Husseini field recently Adam and Jawhar were shot by soldiers at an Israeli checkpoint. After being shot a number of times the two were mauled by Israeli police dogs and beaten. It was reported that ten bullets were put into Jawhar’s feet; Adam was shot by one bullet in each foot.
After being transferred from a medical centre in Ramallah to a hospital in Amman, the two were informed that they would no longer able to play their favourite sport. The Israelis claim that Adam and Jawhar were about to throw a bomb.
This is just the latest example of the brutal treatment of Palestinian footballers by the Israelis. In the past five years, injury, imprisonment and death have been part of their life.
What if British or Spanish football players had been shot, beaten and jailed by soldiers from another country? You can be sure that it would have been front page news, but the assaults on the Palestinians have received little, if any, attention. According to Jibril Al-Rajoub, the Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, the issues are entrenched in Israel’s ambition to destroy Palestinian sports.
Al-Rajoub has tried repeatedly to gather support for sanctions and the removal of Israel from FIFA, the world’s governing body of the sport, in order to end this targeting of Palestinian footballers. Countries such as Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Algeria and Tunisia have shown their willingness to back this effort. He has also pledged to seek an official resolution when the FIFA members gather in Brazil later this year for the World Cup.
As host of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar’s stance in this matter merits greater attention. As the first Middle East country to host the world’s largest football tournament, it has already been under fire for human rights issues facing construction workers building the new stadiums.
As scrutiny of these issues increases, Dave Zirin of The Nation argues that Qatar appears to require all the support in FIFA that it can get. It will be interesting to see whether the gulf state will be told that garnering such support will require it to back Israel and oppose attempts to have it expelled from FIFA for its assaults on Palestinian players.
FIFA acknowledges that there is a problem and has held a meeting of Palestinian and Israeli officials to see if they can be reconciled. However, no progress has been made to-date.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.