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Uruguay Football Team, Please Don’t Train Where Israeli Soldiers Train to Kill Palestinians

Al Khader Sports Club, still mourning its second young player shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in less than two months, urges Uruguay not to accept apartheid Israel’s cynical invitation to host its pre-World Cup training session.

Dear Ignacio Alonso, Uruguay National Team players, management and staff,

We write to you from the Al Khader Sports Club in the occupied Palestinian territory. We write this letter with heavy hearts, but also filled with hope and determination.

We are mourning our second player shot and killed by Israeli soldiers in less than two months.

We are hopeful that you will heed our appeal and not accept apartheid Israel’s cynical invitation to host your pre-World Cup training session.

On April 11, Israeli soldiers shot our defender, 19-year-old player Mohammad Ghneim. We hadn’t even begun to recover from this tragic loss to our team and community, when, on May 27, Israeli soldiers shot another one of our players, Zaid Ghneim. He was only 14 years old–a child.

Both Zaid and Mohammad were shot in the back during raids by Israeli soldiers in our town of Al Khader, near Bethlehem.

All of our players, and millions of Palestinians, grow up under the brutal oppression of Israel’s apartheid regime, when they are fortunate enough to grow up at all. Just since the beginning of this year, Israel has killed 13 Palestinian children, according to Defense for Children International.

Sadly, the experience of our team is hardly unique. The Football Stars Academy is mourning the loss of 18-year-old Thaer Yazouri, whose life was cut short by an Israeli bullet two weeks ago in the Palestinian town of al-Bireh, near the illegal Israeli settlement of Psagot. Last year, Balata FC lost promising player 16-year-old Saeed Odeh, who dreamed of playing for the Palestinian national team. Saeed was also shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.

As Palestinians, we can’t even mourn without the violence of Israeli apartheid adding to the pain at our funerals. The world expressed outrage as Israeli forces killed and then brutally clubbed pallbearers and mourners at the funeral of renowned Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, an act of brutality condemned by Catholic and other Christian leaders in Palestine. She was killed the same day as Thaer Yazouri.

The outrage is welcome, with so many of Israel’s crimes against us Palestinians going unnoticed. However, we need more than outrage. We deserve justice and accountability.

At the very least, we need celebrated teams like Uruguay not to offer Israel a golden opportunity to sportswash its apartheid regime.

Israel is offering to host Uruguay for training ahead of the World Cup for this very reason, to give itself the cover it needs to continue to train its soldiers in the murder and maiming of young Palestinians, including footballers.

We can’t and won’t stay silent. We spoke out against the Argentina Football Association’s planned match with apartheid Israel, with Mohammad in our hearts. The news that the match will not happen gave hope to not only our club, but our entire town.

Now, with Zaid and Mohammad in our hearts, we are calling on Uruguay to train elsewhere and by doing so, help prevent Israel from continuing to kill the lives and dreams of young Palestinian players.

A team like Uruguay will have other offers for World Cup training. Please take one of those offers and help us isolate apartheid Israel until it respects our fundamental rights, just as was done in the case of apartheid South Africa.

You would be far from alone. An unprecedented numbers of active footballers, teams and athletes are standing on the right side of history and refusing to sportswash Israeli apartheid.

Out of love for our teammates and for the game, we are urging you to help us stop what Amnesty International refers to as Israel’s “systematic, unlawful and arbitrary” killings of Palestinians and its treatment of Palestinians as “an inferior racial group.”

Please don’t train where Israeli soldiers train to kill us. Don’t accept apartheid Israel’s invitation to host your pre-World Cup training.

Al Khader Sports Club


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