Palestinian footballer fighting for his life is not a story, but Netanyahu’s football injury is

on 27 Comments

Mahmoud Al Sarsak poster
Mahmoud Al Sarsak poster

While news is scarce about the health condition of Palestinian footballer, Mahmoud Sarsak, who has been on an 88-day hunger strike, ironically there are numerous reports about the Israeli PM pulling a tendon during a staged football event for an upcoming travel documentary.

Middle East Online is reporting that Mahmoud Sarsak is now negotiating with the Israeli authorities who have agreed to his release.  The web news site claims that Sarsak is demanding that he be given a release date in writing.   Sarsak is said to have previously rejected a proposal of exile to Norway.

Earlier AFP reported that the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) announced today that Sarsak had ended his hunger strike, but gave no further details.   The prisoner’s family in Gaza reacted to the report by denying that the footballer had agreed to end his fast.

Mahmoud Sarsak was been incarcerated by Israel for nearly three years as an “unlawful combatant.”  He has never been charged with a crime, given any indication when he may be released, or been offered any avenue of legal redress. 

There seems to be a complete blackout in the Israeli press concerning Sarsak’s situation, in contrast to the considerable news coverage of other recent hunger strikers who had reached a life- threatening point in their protests.  Numerous Palestinian officials have expressed fear that the death of a prisoner on a hunger strike would lead to violent protests.  

In a bizarre juxtaposition, the Israeli press reported today that PM Netanyahu, who is now in a cast, pulled a tendon while playing football with young students.  He heroically, it was dutifully reported, shook off the injury and scored a goal. 

Bibi’s minor injury is a big news story in Israel while the fate of Sarsak, who is considered a hero among many Palestinians, is ignored.  Maybe the Israelis have simply decided that information about their treatment of Palestinian political prisoners is simply bad news.

About Ira Glunts

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. His twitter handle is @abushalom

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27 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    June 11, 2012, 3:26 pm

    There seems to be a complete blackout in the Israeli press concerning Sarsak’s situation, in contrast to the considerable news coverage of other recent hunger strikers who had reached a life- threatening point in their protests.

    that is because he is a palestinian with star quality, he is a celebrity. a sports star. israel’s incarceration against him is a sadistic form of punishment to the entire society by taking away a person they loved who brought them entertainment thru sports. not even politics but sports. they do not want palestinians having celebrities.

    they do not want the world percieving palestinians as celebrities. there is a very narrow window with which they are allowed to operate in terms of fame.

    and successful sports stars is not in that window!

    • OlegR
      June 11, 2012, 7:07 pm

      On the other hand maybe we are not interested in recreational/professional
      activities of people arrested for terrorism.

      • Annie Robbins
        June 11, 2012, 9:43 pm

        people arrested for terrorism

        he was never charged with any crime.

      • OlegR
        June 12, 2012, 6:05 am

        He is held as unlawful combatant afaik.
        Essentially a prisoner of war.Just like Shalit was, only his conditions are a lot

      • piotr
        June 12, 2012, 5:34 pm

        Combatant is a gerund, engaged in combat. Shalit was on combat duty the day he was captured. Sarsak, not so much. The track record of the “off the record” leaks from IDF is really abysmal, and if Sarsak cannot be tried in Israeli kangaroo courts, the evidence has to be worse than thin.

      • justicewillprevail
        June 12, 2012, 2:52 am

        Maybe you are not interested in people, full stop, given your narcissistic self-obsession.

      • talknic
        June 12, 2012, 4:20 am

        OlegR June 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm

        “..we are not interested in recreational/professional
        activities of people arrested for terrorism”

        Uh huh…. recognize any names here

        Meanwhile, Mahmoud Sarsak has been charged for what exactly?

  2. talknic
    June 11, 2012, 3:35 pm

    Bibi had a fraudian slip.

  3. justicewillprevail
    June 11, 2012, 4:39 pm

    A good example of the total denial practiced in Israel with regards to Palestine and the original inhabitants of their land. The cruelty and sadism of locking up somebody without charge or recourse to the law is one of Israel’s specialities, and it applies to any Palestinian who dares be distinguished, resists the occupation peacefully, speaks out of turn or just exists where Israel doesn’t like. Israel’s depravity and vindictiveness knows no bounds, and its utter indifference, as demonstrated here, to human beings who have the wrong parents, is a disgrace to the human race. They make me feel ill.

  4. Woody Tanaka
    June 11, 2012, 6:36 pm

    “Bibi’s minor injury is a big news story in Israel while the fate of Sarsak, who is considered a hero among many Palestinians, is ignored.”

    Because a large number of twisted, deranged people make the decisions in that state.

  5. piotr
    June 11, 2012, 6:53 pm

    The blackout ended. Electronic Intifada has many details, Times of Israel, convenient few.

    A piece of good news is that International Federation of Football Professionals issued a letter , and although FIFPro is not FIFA, it is not an organization that can be dismissed as easily as, say, UN General Assembly. We are talking about the sport of Gods here, while no nation r_e_a_l_l_y has to play with Israel.

    • ritzl
      June 12, 2012, 1:24 am

      Thanks piotr.

      That’s a pretty clearly, if not strongly, worded position and description of the situation from a potent group.

      FIFPro, the voice of all professional footballers in the world, demands that Mahmoud Sarsak be released from prison. The Palestinian national team player has been imprisoned by the Israeli government for three years without any trial.


      FIFPro is also very concerned about the situation of many other professional footballers in Palestine. Sarsak is not the only player who is suffering from the actions of the Israeli government. There are stories of other players who have been harassed, arrested or even killed.

      For many players in Palestine, there is no real freedom of movement.

      ‘The freedom of movement is a fundamental right of every citizen’, says Philippe Piat, FIFPro’s vice-president and president of FIFPro Division Europe. ‘It is also written down in the FIFA Regulations that players must be allowed to play for the national team of their country.’

      iirc, there are two other PNT players in Israeli custody. A/the goalie and another. I wish I could remember or find their names.

      Notice is being taken.

    • Ira Glunts
      June 12, 2012, 8:37 am

      I just saw this on Sports Illustrated. FIFA President expresses concern.

      ZURICH (AP) -FIFA President Sepp Blatter has called on Israel football leaders to “urgently” help a Palestine player on hunger strike in Israeli custody.

      Blatter has written to the Israel Football Association of his “grave concern” after receiving reports that “several Palestine football players have allegedly been illegally detained.”

  6. piotr
    June 11, 2012, 8:07 pm

    For cruelty and sadism, my favorite example is when in 2009 IDF rescinded the ban on exporting humus to Gaza, with exception of “flavored varieties like with pine nuts or mushroom”. What frame of mind could produce such feat of bureaucratic thinking?

    It is easy to eliminate the consideration of generosity, because it was shortly after Flotilla and Israel needed badly “good will gestures”.

    It is easy to eliminate the consideration of security. Someone could believe that Sarsak indeed produced explosives when he had time free from training, perhaps as a pupil in the rocket science academy organized by Dirar Abu-Sisi. For some unfatomable reason, someone could believe that humus is “dual use” in producing weapons. But who could believe that humus becomes dangerous with additives like pine nuts or mushroom?

    I would also argue that it was also not sadism, in the sense that what kind of deprivation it is? Personally, I like humus with some red hot pepper, but…

    My conclusion is that it was uncontrollable hatred. A wish to harm or hurt hated adversary that goes beyond rational calculation. And the situation of Sarsak is similar — Israel was FORCED to allow football players to leave Gaza for games. It is the only sport with that privilege, and I do not believe for a second that IDF suffer a sudden but expremely limited bout of generosity. Thus in the spirit of “humus with no additives” they have a nearly uncontrollable impulse to poison that concession.

    • DICKERSON3870
      June 11, 2012, 10:17 pm

      RE: “…my favorite example is when in 2009 IDF rescinded the ban on exporting humus to Gaza, with exception of “flavored varieties like with pine nuts or mushroom”. What frame of mind could produce such feat of bureaucratic thinking?” ~ piotr

      MY COMMENT: There is a method* to the (bureaucratic) madness!

      * FROM ALISTAIR CROOKE, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

      (excerpts). . . It was [Ariel] Sharon who pioneered the philosophy of ‘maintained uncertainty’ that repeatedly extended and then limited the space in which Palestinians could operate by means of an unpredictable combination of changing and selectively enforced regulations, and the dissection of space by settlements, roads Palestinians were not allowed to use and continually shifting borders. All of this was intended to induce in the Palestinians a sense of permanent temporariness. . .
      . . . It suits Israel to have a ‘state’ without borders so that it can keep negotiating about borders, and count on the resulting uncertainty to maintain acquiescence. . .

      SOURCE –

      ALSO SEE: Learned helplessness

    • Eva Smagacz
      June 12, 2012, 6:21 am

      You are describing pathology seen in psychopaths.

      • piotr
        June 12, 2012, 5:21 pm

        Dickerson, theory shmeory, at the end of the day being powerful means that you do what you like.

  7. Avi_G.
    June 11, 2012, 11:38 pm

    It is no coincidence that Israel chose to arrest a footballer without trial and to throw him in a prison cell.

    Israel simply does NOT want any semblance of normalcy, pride or cultural development to take place among Palestinians. Israel’s efforts to repeatedly target the Freedom Theater in Jenin, and to target cultural, educational and sports venues of various kinds — whether in the occupied West Bank of which East Jerusalem is a part, or in Gaza — is part of a deliberate strategy.

    Israeli authorities have also repeatedly prevented Palestinian students who received the Fulbright scholarship to study in the U.S. from exiting the Gaza Strip and traveling to study in the U.S., despite the Department of State clearing them.

    This too, the targeting of a footballer, and Israel’s attempts to disappear him are part and parcel of that grand strategy to crush Palestinians.

    There is no doubt about it.

    That is why Israel has been pushing to ‘exile’ him to Norway.

    Incidentally, Nelson Mandella understood the power of sports — namely Rugby — in transforming a nation and rallying masses behind a cause. (See the book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation and the movie Invictus.)

    Israel, too, understands the power of sports.

    As an aside, those who still doubt that Israel was behind the murder of Juliano Mer Khamis, ought to think again.

    Palestinians from the occupied territories can be thrown in prison under the military administrative detention and they would have no recourse. But, an Israeli citizen, which Mer Khamis was, could fight Israeli authorities through the Israeli civil court system. His murder was the only way and the ‘cleanest’ way for Israel to remove him from the theater and by extension from any cultural activity in the occupied West Bank. I have lost count of the number of times Israel has raided the Freedom Theater and arrested its members.

    And Israeli propagandists sometimes peddle the lie that Israel will benevolently hand over power in the West Bank to Palestinians as soon as Palestinians build civil society institutions.

    • seafoid
      June 12, 2012, 9:14 am


      They killed Juliano Mer Khamis and Vittorio Arrigoni. The Untermenschen can not be allowed culture. They are not permitted pride.

    • lysias
      June 12, 2012, 11:08 am

      The Gaelic Athletic Association, in which Irish athletes played (and still play) such distinctively Irish sports as hurling and Gaelic football, played a major role in the rebellion of 1916-22 that led to Irish independence. Many of the fighters in the IRA of the time were GAA athletes.

      In that rebellion, hunger strikes by imprisoned rebels were one of the main things that turned public opinion — in Ireland, America, Australia, and even England — against British rule over Ireland.

    • piotr
      June 12, 2012, 5:26 pm

      Well, Avi_G, except that FIFA is a serious organization, unlike, say US government or UN. This is why Israel has a specific provision to allow free travel for soccer players of Gaza, something that probably drives than mad. (By being serious I mean that FIFA is capable of following words with action, something that US government is not capable of).

  8. Tzombo
    June 12, 2012, 1:47 pm

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