America's National Basketball Association has removed reference to the "Occupied Palestinian Territories" from its new website following complaints from Israeli ministers, it was reported on Friday. The name appeared on a list of countries which enables fans to vote for their favourite players for the 2018 All-Star Game.
According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that politics should not be mixed with sport. She claimed that referring to land "connected with the Jewish nation for thousands of years" as "occupied" is a mistake.
Her cabinet colleague, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, sent a letter to the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver calling on him to remove "Occupied Palestinian Territories" from the list. "I was surprised to discover that on the official website of the NBA… the state of 'Palestine – Occupied Territory' was listed as one of the many countries to which basketball fans belong," she wrote. "Palestine is a country everyone knows doesn't exist. I view the inclusion of 'Occupied Palestine' … as legitimising the division of the State of Israel and as gross and blatant interference, in contrast to the official position of the American administration."
Silver explained that the NBA does not produce the country listings for the NBA.com website. "As soon as we became aware of it, the site was updated. We apologise for this oversight, and have corrected it."
Commentators have pointed out that the site was not incorrect in the first place. The State of Palestine is recognised by the UN, and its territories are designated as occupied in international law, including East Jerusalem. "This is yet another example of Israeli officials twisting reality to justify their brutal military occupation," said MEMO's senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt. "Their arrogance is breathtaking."