Which Israeli will Europe and Arabs Target Next?
While the rest of the Dutch Arnhem-based soccer club, Vitesse, attended a training camp in Abu Dhabi, the team left one of its Israeli-born defenders at home. Dan Mori, who was transferred from Tel Aviv's Bnei Yehuda club in 2012, was not allowed to enter Abu Dhabi -- so the club was told the day before departure -- because he holds an Israeli passport.
Three things stand out: First, it appears that The Royal Netherlands Football Association [RNFA] initially wanted nothing to do with the incident and submitted to Abu Dhabi's demand without a peep. This despite the fact that the RNFA, which is a member of FIFA and UEFA, demands strict compliance with 'anti racism' guidelines by Dutch soccer clubs if they wish to maintain their RNFA licenses. Second, the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry advised Vitesse "to keep sports and politics separated as much as possible." Third, the Gulf states' tendency to ban athletes from Israel is totally inconsistent with their relationship to Israel when it comes to security or business.
To further illustrate the RNFA's non-compliance with both FIFA and UEFA's anti-racism guidelines: After a Dutch amateur linesman was kicked to death by three teenage Dutch-Moroccan amateur soccer players last year, if you think the RNFA's anger would be directed at the murderers, you would be wrong. Instead, in the wake of the killing, Hans van der Liet, former chairman of the Amsterdam Committee of Referees and a sympathizer with Geert Wilders's Freedom Party, was formally asked to stop expressing his right to free speech on social media or else face a discharge. Van der Liet had written Facebook posts in which he playfully commented that, statistically, Dutch Moroccans are prone to delinquency and violence, a remark which unfortunately might convey a painful truth; half of all young Dutch-Moroccans have been arrested by police at least once, and one third of that group has been arrested more than five times.
While the leadership of the RNFA vilified Van der Liet as a racist – an accusation both the author and Van der Liet's former partners refuted – they were nonetheless reluctant to act when one of its members, Mori, was refused entry to a country because of his Jewish Israeli background. Eventually the RNFA did issue a report to FIFA on the matter, but only after the astonishment caused by RNFA's initial refusal to abide by its own "anti racism" guidelines became public. The fact remains that a Dutch soccer player was excluded from a training camp on the sole basis that he is Jew with an Israeli passport: so much for the RNFA's otherwise neatly abided by "anti-racism" guidelines.
Further, not only is the Dutch Foreign Ministry's advice "to keep sports and politics separated as much as possible," bankrupt -- in the mushiness of such language -- of any enforceable meaning; it is, above all, not in line with the Dutch Constitution, the first article of which states, "All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted."
The Ministry, however, in another instance of what clearly seems to be an escalating European anti-Jewish racism, advised the Dutch club not to make a fuss. The club's cravenness in complying -- although in line with the Dutch Foreign Ministry's advice -- only serves to expose people who regard themselves as highly moral but who in fact are not. And when added to the increased calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions [BDS], it seems appropriate to ask, is it not actually many Europeans, Arabs and Muslims who are the new Nazis?
Maybe the Dutch Foreign Ministry and RNFA could learn from the Davis Cup, which suspended Tunisia after Tunisian tennis player Malek Jaziri was ordered not to compete against an Israeli opponent; as well as from the main sponsor of the English soccer club, West Bromwich Albion, property website Zoopla, which withdrew its sponsorship because it no longer wanted to be associated with player Nicolas Anelka's anti-Semitic "quenelle" salute.
Moreover, what racist precedents are these Europeans setting? As recently as last December, the Israeli youth chess team, playing in Abu Dhabi, was forced to play under the flag of the World Chess Federation instead of under its Israeli flag; and one day after that, the Israeli flag was completely removed from the tournament's website.
Last October, when swimmer Amit Ivry won the silver medal at the women's 100 meter individual medley in Qatar, the Israeli flag was removed from the broadcast.
A few years ago, Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer was also not allowed to enter Qatar to compete in the Qatar Women's Open.
All clubs, hosts and sponsors of these tournaments need to be held accountable, sued and sanctioned. It is long overdue that rules be clearly established -- and enforced. If all members of a team are not welcome, another location can be found; if such a rule presents a problem, any country may graciously be excused from hosting international events.
The hypocritical -- and, bluntly, racist -- restrictions of these countries become even more conspicuous when contrasted to the double standards they practice when events happen to suit some other interest. When doing business or cooperating on security with Israel or Israelis, these same Qatari and UAE rules do not apply.
According to an Israeli Finance Ministry paper, Israel opened a diplomatic mission in one of the Gulf states, rumored to be the UAE, to increase Israeli effectiveness in combating the Iranian regime -– a nemesis of Israel as well as of the Sunni Gulf states. Israel was also, despite a Kuwaiti boycott, allowed to attend a recent renewable energy conference in the UAE.
Bilateral Qatari-Israeli relations date back to 1996, when a visit by then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres resulted in the opening of the first Israeli Trade Office in Doha, Qatar. Despite the freeze in the Arab-Israeli "peace process," Qatar, in a gesture that infuriated Saudi Arabia, invited Israel to the 1997 MENA economic conference it hosted there. Even after Saudi Arabia and Iran exerted enormous pressure that forced the official closure of the Israeli office in Qatar in 2000, secret meetings continued to take place, and co-operation resumed uninterrupted.
During the Israeli 2008 military operation "Cast Lead," however, Qatari-Israeli relations took a turn for the worse; Qatar severed ties with Israel, shut down the Israeli trade office altogether and expelled all Israeli representatives. After the media attention on "Cast Lead" had settled down, Qatar re-approached Israel in 2010; but this time the Qatari engagement was turned down by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Qatar's conditions for the deal had been that Israel publicly recognize and express its appreciation for Qatar's role and prominent standing in the Middle East, and that Israel grant Qatar permission to ship large quantities of cement and construction materials to the Gaza Strip. In recent years, these materials were not used to build housing for the citizens of the Gaza Strip; instead they were used to construct vast, well-lit and ventilated underground tunnels through which to kidnap Israelis or to smuggle weaponry from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, as well as other contraband.
It appears, nevertheless, that the Gulf States, when not humiliating and ostracizing Israeli athletes and others, continue to obscure their relations with a free, open and democratic state, and to conduct meetings in secret.
Even sadder is that European governments, sports clubs and other organizations remain so eagerly complicit in the racism that so many pretend to deplore.
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