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PUMA sportswear is being urged to axe its football sponsorship in apartheid Israel

PUMA continues to sponsor the Israel Football Association
Campaign against PUMA's sponsorship to the Israel Football Association

Europe's largest sportswear manufacturer, Adidas, has ended its lucrative boot deal with French footballer Kurt Zouma, after the English Premier League player was shown to kick and slap his pet cat in a video clip uploaded by his brother onto social media. The West Ham United defender has since faced enormous criticism for his cruelty.

Indeed, the football club has fined Zouma two weeks' wages — a staggering £250,000 — and as well as losing his six-figure sponsorship deal with Adidas, an insurance company has suspended its partnership with West Ham. This drama is still playing in the media, and looks like costing the player and his club an awful lot of money. Happily, Zouma's two cats have been taken into care by the RSPCA animal protection charity, but a criminal investigation is still possible.

Given the commendable response of Adidas to the kicking of an innocent animal, I wonder what rival company PUMA is going to do over its links with Israel. The apartheid state's security forces — police officers and soldiers alike — routinely punch and kick innocent Palestinian men, women and children. And let's not forget the innocent lives lost when schoolchildren are targeted and killed by Israeli snipers and bombs. The brutality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is laid bare for us all to see on social media.

And yet PUMA continues to sponsor the Israel Football Association. Tens of thousands of people across Britain have already petitioned PUMA demanding that the company ends this sponsorship deal with the IFA, which governs and advocates on behalf of teams playing in illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land. Moreover, Palestinian footballers are treated abominably by the Israeli occupation authorities.

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That's not enough to force PUMA to change its sponsorship policy, though. Sadly the public reaction towards innocent Palestinian children being abused and killed is not as muscular in the West as it is when it comes to cruelty towards animals. Both should be viewed and condemned in equal measure, with swift justice administered against the oppressor.

Perhaps that will change on Saturday, when there is an international day of action outside PUMA stores and stockists to urge the company to end its support for Israeli apartheid. It may well tip the balance.

According to a press release from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a leaked internal memo reveals that PUMA has admitted that its celebrity ambassadors and business partners are questioning its support for Israeli apartheid. A lawyer for the company told the PSC that this was making life "miserable" for PUMA.

Its contract with the IFA ends in June, but rather than wait for this "natural" break, PUMA should cut its ties with Israeli apartheid now, and let the people in Israel know that the cruelty and brutality of the occupation is the reason why. If Adidas can axe a football star's sponsorship deal within 48 hours of him kicking a cat, then PUMA can surely cut all ties and end its unsavoury sponsorship of the Israel Football Association without further delay. It's an open goal, PUMA. Don't miss it.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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