Soccer diplomacy? Palestinians use sport to draw attention to a cause
Even FIFA's president made statements regarding Israeli-Palestinian relations. (Shutterstock)
Before the World Cup takes over the world’s news Palestinians on the West Bank are using the beautiful game to highlight the plight of dozens of their hunger-strikers, locked up in Israeli jails.
At issue is the law on administrative detention, a throwback to the days of the British protectorate, under which some 200 Palestinians are jailed without charge or trial. Some have been on hunger strike since April 24, and around 70 have been hospitalised.
FIFA is also using the tournament to urge change.
“We call upon the Israeli government to facilitate human relations when entering the territory of Palestine for national or international matches,” said FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
Palestinians play football in difficult circumstances, with club teams from Gaza and the West Bank subject to travel restrictions, yet the national side won this year’s Asia Challenge Cup, their first major honour since 1928, qualifying them for next year’s Asia cup in Australia.