Thursday, 1 August 2013

Barcelona clearly offside in visiting Israel

Selling the jerseys: Barcelona president with Peres
Barcelona FC are about to commence an unfortunate and detrimental 'Peace Tour' of Israel.

Although Messi and his co-stars will also first visit the West Bank (conducting one of their 'football clinics' in Hebron, the second in Tel Aviv) the club's inclusion of Israel in their itinerary is a completely misguided 'peace promotion'.

As the many Palestinian boycott and international solidarity organisations, including BDS Catalunya, have urged, Barcelona's seemingly altruistic tour only serves the process of normalisation, giving vital succour to Israel's own 'peace' posturing.

Indeed, this kind of 'dual recognition' is arguably worse than just playing Israel itself, for it reinforces the whole spurious 'two sides responsible' mythology that helps mitigate Israel's singular crimes and primary oppressions.

Barcelona will be officially greeted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, an historical war criminal, as well as PM Netanyahu.

Coming on top of Israel's staging of the recent Under-21 Euro Championship - shamelessly allowed by Uefa, and admirably opposed by a wide range of European and other players - Barcelona's involvement incentivises Brand Israel - a key hasbara project that eminent scientist Stephen Hawking recently helped undermine by refusing an invite to the 'illustrious' Peres presidential conference in Jerusalem.

Many other artists, performers and notable figures are taking that same, honourable position. 

Noting the close involvement of the Peres Centre for Peace, the Israel media are, predictably, extolling this opportunity of 'bringing football to kids', Israeli and Palestinian.

They have, in contrast, little to say about the kind of cruel travel restrictions imposed on Palestinian players, or Israel's barbaric treatment of jailed hunger strike player Mahmoud Sarsak - who also refused Barcelona's ameliorating invite to a match attended by Gilad Shalit.   
In their official statement, Barcelona emphasise that the Peace Tour also has the official recognition of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - giving the enterprise a seemingly higher degree of authenticity.

Yet, with his own promotional agenda, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority do not credibly speak for the Palestinian street and a wide civil movement strongly approving the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. 

Many football-adoring Palestinians will, of course, revel in this chance to see their Barca heroes, regarding the West Bank visit as an act of welcome empathy, without endorsing the club's onward stop in Israel. 

But it's that 'second-half' appearance which ultimately invalidates their seemingly laudable 'first-half' efforts.

The emotional appeal of this tour  - sporting solidarity and encouragement to dialogue - may seem admirably supportable to many. But it only sets back the imperative task of holding Israel to immediate and sole account over the Occupation and its multiple war crimes.

That should be the real tactical game and publicity goal for Barcelona and any other serious team player intent on supporting Palestinian rights and challenging Israel's criminal, apartheid state.    

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