Palestinians are being killed in record numbers. Racist, hate-filled fanatic Zionists are invading the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Palestinian worshipers are being terrorized by Israeli forces. Yet it is Indonesia that is being penalized internationally merely for engaging in discussions about not allowing an Israeli soccer team to play on its soil.
The Israeli under-20 soccer team was supposed to play at a FIFA tournament in Indonesia in the summer. But after internal Indonesian discussions about blocking Israel from playing, FIFA decided to take away the tournament and not allow Indonesia to host it.
One would expect that after several reports published by major internationally acclaimed human rights organizations stating that Israel is engaged in the crime of apartheid – a crime so heinous it is categorized as a Crime Against Humanity – that international sporting organizations would stand up and ban Israel from participating in international sporting events. However, they do not, and it remains up to individual athletes and countries to stand up to apartheid Israel.
CNN reported that “Soccer’s world governing body FIFA has stripped Indonesia of its right to host the Under-20 Men’s World Cup later this year after an Indonesian official objected to the participation of Israel.” CNN further writes that “FIFA has decided, due to the current circumstances, to remove Indonesia as the host of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023,” the sport’s governing body said in a statement without providing further clarification. “A new host will be announced as soon as possible, with the dates of the tournament currently remaining unchanged.”
Also, according to the CNN report, the statement by FIFA officials said, “sanctions against the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) were also possible.” The question is, why? Why is Indonesia being penalized, and why are sanctions against it being discussed? What did Indonesia do to deserve such treatment?
A strategy of punitive measures
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appealed to the public in a televised address, reiterating Indonesia’s support for the Palestinians but also stressing the country must follow FIFA regulations, according to state news agency Antara. “Do not link sports issues with political affairs,” he reportedly said.
PSSI president Erick Thohir said he pleaded Indonesia’s case to FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Wednesday, which included showing him a letter from the Indonesian President. Arya Sinulingga, a member of the PSSI executive committee, told CNN that FIFA’s decision stemmed from the refusal by Wayan Koster, governor of the resort island of Bali, to host matches if Israel took part. Koster had sent a letter to Indonesia’s sports ministry requesting Israel be banned from competing in the province and refusing to host an Israeli team.
Punishing those who stand up
At the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, judokas Fathi Nourine of Algeria and Mohamed Abdelrasool of Sudan refused to compete against members of the Israeli judo team, choosing to withdraw instead. The response was swift: both Nourine and his coach were banned for ten years, effectively ending their careers.
However, it should not come down to individuals to take a stand; it is the responsibility of the International Olympic Committee to ban Israel. Nevertheless, both FIFA and the International Olympic Committee are unable, unwilling or afraid to stand up to the apartheid regime.
The president of Indonesia had apparently said that sports should not be mixed with political issues, and he is right. However, the issue of Palestine is not a matter of politics; it is a matter of life and death. Palestine is a matter of values. Israel is an illegitimate, racist, violent state that is terrorizing its neighbors. The brutality with which Israel is treating Palestinians is not a matter of politics, and therefore banning Israel is not mixing politics with sports. The reason for banning it is not a political disagreement; it is a deeply moral issue that people of conscience must not ignore.
A moral stance to ban Israel and support Palestinians has nothing to do with politics; it has everything to do with maintaining a stance that is consistent with international law and humanity. A country that consistently shoots soccer players in the knees so that they are unable to pay must not be allowed to play in international sporting events. A state that orders its police officers to enter a holy sight filled with unarmed worshipers and beat them and terrorizes them should not be given the privilege of participating in international sports.
Israel is a state that keeps millions of Palestinians in ghettos without rights and terrorizes men, women, children, the elderly, medical workers, journalists and people of all walks of life while affording privileges to Israeli Jews, and must not be allowed to participate in international sports. This is not mixing politics with sports; it is upholding the values of sports above the mere game. When Nourine refused to step on the mat and fight a member of the Israeli team, he did not mix politics and judo. He upheld the principles of sports and martial arts by stating there are things that are more important than winning a match. As a matter of fact, his actions should have awarded him a gold medal because by acting as he did, he defeated his opponents without setting foot on the mat. That is what sports should be about.
FIFA was wrong to penalize Indonesia. Instead, the Israeli team should have been banned, and the games allowed to continue as planned in Indonesia. Indonesians may feel proud for having paid such a heavy price. They bore the bill for doing the right thing, and when all countries follow in Indonesia’s footsteps, and all athletes follow in the path of Fathi Nourine and Mohamed Abdelrasool, Palestinians will stand a chance of defeating apartheid Israel. It will act like theirs, which will speed up the liberation of Palestine.
Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”