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MintPress News: Indonesia’s Betrayal of Palestine: Hosting Israel in Under-20 World Cup

As though someone was trying to prove me right, a few days after I published the article “By Recognizing Israel, Muslim Countries Are Betraying the Palestinian Cause,” I received a message from friends in Indonesia. The piece talks about the seemingly unstoppable movement within majority Muslim and Arab countries pushing towards normalizing relations with Israel. The message from my Indonesian friends mentioned that Indonesia will be hosting the Under-20 world football (soccer) championships this summer. The Israeli team qualified and will be participating, and as of the time these words are being written, the Indonesian government is permitting the Israeli team to enter the country and play.

I was asked to send a video urging the Indonesian government to refrain from allowing the Israeli team to enter. The video has gone viral in Indonesia and has been shown on television and mentioned in the local press, adding to an ongoing campaign to ask the government to maintain the country’s long-standing stance against Zionism.

Indonesia has never had diplomatic relations with Israel and maintains its position in support of the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom and against the apartheid regime. However, as I mentioned in the earlier article, there are forces within Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and the Arab countries who have not yet normalized relations with Israel to do so – and quickly.

There can be no doubt that the United States is placing pressure on these governments to move in that direction, and there are benefits promised. This is particularly true with regard to Saudi Arabia, who, for now, chose to renew diplomatic ties with Iran and not Israel. When asked about this rather unexpected development, President Joe Biden demonstrated very obvious frustration. The Saudi government’s move has to be seen as a serious blow to Biden’s administration. In its desperate attempt to legitimize the apartheid regime in Palestine, the U.S. has clearly been delivered a severe blow.

Talking of severe blows, the process by which governments of Muslim-majority countries normalize relations with apartheid Israel seriously harms the Palestinian cause. The purpose of this process is to strip Palestinians of all international support.  Every country in Asia, the Middle East and Africa that normalizes with Israel is a victory for apartheid.


A short memory

In Africa, it seems that some governments have forgotten the role of Israel in oppressing African people and pillaging their resources. Accordion to a report in Al-Monitor, The president of Senegal, Macky Sall, who is also the current head of the African Union, said:

Israel is part of the family of nations, so it has a role to play in Africa. In partnership. I must say that in several African countries, Israel is working in specific domains such as agriculture, security, defense and other sectors. Now, Israel should take part in this general effort for Africa, because it (Israel) is an important country.”

Sall was in France for the annual Africa Forum organized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. He expressed his hopes for continued Israel engagement in the continent.

This statement on Israel’s role in Africa is very alarming in light of Sall’s role as chief of the African Union. Furthermore, he is president of Senegal, a majority Muslim country that, in 2017, renewed diplomatic relations with the Israeli apartheid regime.

Israel has had a role in the theft of resources as well as in supporting the worst dictators African people had to endure. From the murder of Patrice Lumumba and the training of President Mobutu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the deep, close relations with apartheid South Africa, the country’s role in Africa must be condemned, and no Israeli official should ever be allowed to set foot on the continent.

However, with pressure from the United States and bribes from Israel, the moral stance once held by African, Arab and Asian Muslim-majority countries has all but disappeared.


Football players shot by Israel

A piece in The Nation magazine from 2014 describes the brutal attack by Israeli soldiers on two Palestinian soccer players as they returned home from practice.  Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. The article goes on to say that,

They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. After being shot repeatedly, they were mauled by checkpoint dogs and then beaten. Ten bullets were put into Jawhar’s feet. Adam took one bullet in each foot. After being transferred from a hospital in Ramallah to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, they received the news that soccer would no longer be a part of their futures.”

The piece continues to say that a campaign to target and maim members of the Palestinian soccer team has been in place at that point for five years. Another investigation, this time in The Washington Post, talks about young Palestinians from the Gaza Strip whose legs had to be amputated as a result of Israeli sniper fire. Among others, it tells the story of Mohammad al-Ajouri, a teenage track star with ambitions to compete internationally. But, it notes,

…[L]ast month, while participating in a protest along Gaza’s border, he was struck by a bullet fired by an Israeli soldier. It penetrated his calf, shattering his leg before exiting the shin. Doctors tried to save the limb, but an infection soon spread. The leg had to be amputated. During the past month of demonstrations along the border between Gaza and Israel, at least 17 Palestinians have suffered gunshot wounds that ultimately cost them their legs, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.”

In at least three cases, Israeli authorities rejected the transfer of wounded Gazan civilians to the West Bank, where they could have received treatment to save their limbs.

Furthermore, the Washington Post report says that during the Great March of Return – the heroic attempt by the people of Gaza at unarmed demonstrations – over two thousand Palestinians had suffered leg injuries as a result of sniper fire.

In April 2022, Inside World Football reported on the death of Mohammad Ali Ahmad AlGhneim, a 19-year-old Palestinian from Al-Khadr who “should have been playing for the Al-Khadr Club in the Palestinian 3rd division/South. Instead, his family, teammates and the Palestinian FA are burying another young talent.”

Here, too, the report is clear that,

The harassment of Palestinian footballers, the impounding of equipment, the refusal to allow players to travel through border crossings and the general violence that has seen players shot and killed, as well as stadiums damaged by Israeli shelling (the Israelis claim terrorists are using stadia to fire rockets into their territory) is well documented.”

If indeed the Under-20 soccer team from Israel will be playing in Indonesia, the least that can be done is to invite the injured and amputee Palestinians to watch the games.

Feature photo | Protesters march during a protest in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 20, 2023, against the Israeli team’s participation in the FIFA World Cup Under-20 in Indonesia. Achmad Ibrahim | AP

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.”

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