Update: On September 19, UEFA announced that Israel would not be given the right to host UEFA 2020 tournament games in Jerusalem. Thank you to everyone who joined us in this successful campaign!
The Union of European Football Associations has rejected an Israeli bid to host games during the 2020 European Championships. The decision follows a campaign by Palestinian sports teams and campaign groups and activists across Europe.
The Israeli Football Association bid to host games in Jerusalem as part of the UEFA 2020 tournament that will take place across 13 cities, but UEFA announced on Friday that Jerusalem was not one of the successful bidders.
75 Palestinian football teams and NGOs wrote to UEFA president Michel Platini arguing that holding the UEFA 2020 games in Jerusalem would be tantamount to “rewarding” Israel for its massacre of more than 2,100 Palestinians, including over 500 children, during its recent 52-day assault on Gaza.
Campaigners across Europe pressured UEFA and national football associations not to accept the Israeli bid. Sit-ins were held by Palestine solidarity activists at the headquarters of French and Italian football associations.
Abdulrahman Abunahel, the coordinator in Gaza with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee said:
“Given that awarding Israel the right to host the games would have been a sign of support for Israel’s massacre in Gaza and its war on Palestinian football, UEFA has made the only sensible decision.
“We thank all those who joined us in opposing Israel’s bid to host games in Jerusalem, a city from which Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Our online campaigning and the occupations of football association buildings in France and Italy undoubtedly played a role in persuading UEFA to to make the right choice.”
“Israel has launched a war on football in Palestine: footballers have been killed, stadiums bombed and players have been refused permission to travel to matches. UEFA must suspend the membership the Israeli Football Association if it continues to maintain its links with the Israeli state that practices occupation, colonisation and apartheid.”
Thousands of people participated in a Twitter storm action on Tuesday to tell UEFA that awarding Israel the right to host UEFA 2020 tournament games would amount to a message of approval for its massacre in Gaza.
Among those killed in Israel’s recent massacre in Gaza were Ahmad Muhammad al-Qatar and Uday Caber, two 19-year-old football players at the start of their careers, and 49-year-old Ahed Zaqout, a footballing legend in Palestine known as “the voice of football” for his live commentaries. 32 sports facilities and around 500 athletes’ houses were also damaged.
Palestinian groups also warned that hosting games in Jerusalem would legitimise Israel’s forced displacement of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem, which is recognised as occupied Palestinian territory by the EU and UN.
Israel recently announced plans to further expand illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, a step that the UN and other agencies have warned will lead to further expulsions and forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes.
In a public letter protesting against UEFA’s decision to allow Israel to host the Under 21 tournament in 2013, more than 50 footballers including Didier Drogba and Frederik Kanoute called the Israeli-hosted tournament “a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values”.
In 2010, UEFA president Michel Platini said: “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behavior”.
Campaigners are now planning to intensify the pressure on Platini to live up to his promises and suspend the Israeli Football Association.