'From stabbing IDF soldiers to having them as teammates, Palestinian uses football for peace' has to be the most disingenuous headline for an article on the colonizer-colonized relationship, even by the standards of JTA, The Global News Service of the Jewish People. It refers to the ‘Peace Team’, which has taken part in the Australian Football League (AFL) Cup this August. The team is co-sponsored by The Peres Center for Peace and Al Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue. The aforementioned Palestinian is Sulaiman Khatib, co-founder and director of the Al-Quds Association, and this is a transcript of his ‘confession’ to JTA:
[I]n 1986, when he was just 14, he and a friend stabbed some Israeli soldiers. Khatib was arrested and sent to prison for 10 years. He spent most of his time behind bars learning Hebrew and English, reading about Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and studying the histories of other conflicts -- all of which, he said, led him to a startling conclusion. “I believe there is no military solution to the conflict,” Khatib, 39, said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ... “I believe nonviolence is the best way for our struggle, for our freedom and for peace on both sides.
Amen to nonviolence and freedom – nice if you can get it. That Israel crushes nonviolence more brutally than violent resistance, and the distressing fact that Khatib is more sinned against than sinning, is not at issue here for the interviewer. A juvenile, inflicting a non-fatal knife wound on a combatant of an occupying army, is sentenced in a military court (no doubt) to ten years in an Israeli jail and emerges committed to a non-military solution to occupation and apartheid. Admirable and understandable, but where is the commitment on the other side? In this fantastical peaceful co-existence scenario, the Israeli soldier is at worst inconveniencing his peace partner in the name of Jewish security:
One of the players, Kamal Abu Althom, told JTA that sometimes it took him three hours to get from Hebron to the training sessions. The soldiers “take a long time at the checkpoints, checking our ID, checking our bags,” he said. This, said Hay, emphasizes one of the points of the program. “The Palestinians realize this is the only chance to meet Israelis who are not soldiers, and for the Israelis, they’re not meeting Palestinians only at checkpoints,” Hay said. “We created a safe place where they are able to meet without stereotypes.”
No such confessions are forthcoming from Israeli participants, the younger of whom have just left the army - and, the article implies, were itching to take revenge for the Eilat attack before a group hug put them back on the peace track.
We learn that Tanya Oziel, executive director of the Australian branch of the Peres Center for Peace, is a Sephardic Jew with Iraqi origins. It's not clear why that is relevant; perhaps she understands better the ‘Arab mentality’. ‘The media coverage here of the team’s visit – amid a campaign to boycott Israel by targeting Max Brenner chocolate shops, which are Israeli-owned, across Australia – has been “unprecedented,” said Oziel.’ Last year, Mr Dawood Hammoudeh, a researcher at Stop the Wall NGO, told the Palestine Monitor about the use of sports for pro-Israel propaganda. The Peres Centre organised a mixed Israeli/Palestinian football team to play Barcelona FC in Spain in 2005: “‘It was a response to the Spanish boycott movement of Israeli football, an attempt to improve Israel’s image’”.
Oziel does not mention Marrickville, but the timing is favorable for counter-BDS initiatives in Australia. The Peace Team arranged to participate in a welcome function at Marrickville Town Hall on 18 August. Marrickville Council, Sydney, has voted to 'in principle' support a Green Party-led boycott of cultural and sporting exchanges with Israeli institutions, provoking condemnation from federal and state politicians, Jewish groups and media commentators. The motion was overturned in April, when all the Labor and two Green councillors withdrew their support. Ziyaad Lunat, a member of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee (BNC), told me for an article on normalization and sport that “Al-Quds Association are part of a program that includes a stop-over at Marrickville, Australia, participating in anti-BDS propaganda set up by pro-occupation groups.” As Australians for Palestine’s Public Advocate, Samah Sabawi, wrote here earlier this month, “what can be more appealing for those of us who are passionate about peace in Israel/Palestine than to welcome this team of Palestinian Israeli youth who have learned to play and interact together not as enemies but as teammates? The answer: the idea that when members of this team return to their homes, the Palestinian players would not have to go through dehumanising checkpoints, around high barbed wire walls and into Bantustans surrounded and suffocated by a matrix of Jewish-only roads, settlements and security zones.”
Oziel is concerned about the Palestinian participants: ‘“I’m more worried about the backlash when the boys get back home,” she said. “There’s still resentment. Some of our boys are under threat for being involved in normalization projects with Israel. It’s very sad.”’
It’s very sad that this is her greatest concern.
‘Say, the soldier is a human being, right? He has a heart, doesn’t he? So what does he tell himself. That I killed a boy today. What does he tell himself…' ends the mahsanmilim report of Aya Kaniuk and Tamar Goldschmidt, translated from the Hebrew by Tal Haran, and posted here below.
‘People are walking around afraid of soldiers, that if they go out at night, they’d be killed. From far away. And it’s quiet at night. People don’t open their windows out of fear. This is the story of what happened that night of Ramadan in our camp… This is what happened.”'
On Monday, August 1st, 2011, at dawn, the Occupation soldiers murdered Mu'tasem Udwan and Ali Khalifa and seriously wounded Ma’amun Awad. It was the first morning of Ramadan:
“Mu'tasem, Mu'tasem Udwan, the first fellow they killed. He is my neighbor,” says Majdi from the camp, whom we have just recently met. “He lives just 10 meters away. We were all woken up by the shooting… it was war… I went up to the roof. And there was this soldier down in the street. His rifle placed on a tripod… And Mu'tasem opened his door to take a look outside because of the shooting and the noise. Terrible noise… and teargas and lots of shooting.
Mu'tasem who looked down didn’t notice the soldier. The soldier shot him in the head, and he fell to the floor.
He opened the door of his home and the soldier shot him with a live bullet to the head… and his brain spilt on the ground.
And he didn’t have a head anymore. He didn’t have a head…
I saw all that from my roof. I’ll never forget this as long as I live. He had no more head… and his brain spilt on the floor.
The Palestinians will hear your confession now, Israel. In a court of law.