Guardian sports writer makes unforced error in report on failing BDS campaign against Israel

As we reported on May 28, the 2013 European Under-21 Football Championship (UEFA U-21) will be hosted by Israel beginning tomorrow, June 5th, through the 18th, bringing national football teams from all over Europe to compete – with England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, the Netherlands and Norway, alongside Israel, all vying for the title of champion.

Additionally, we noted in our post that the Guardian, unsurprisingly, has provided free PR to a failing BDS campaign calling for the tournament organizers, even at this late date, to reverse their decision to choose Israel as the venue, publishing a pro-boycott letter (signed largely by activists affiliated with Palestine Solidarity Campaignand a story, in their sports section, reporting on the publication of the very same letter the paper had just published.

The latest publicity provided for those calling for a sporting boycott of the Jewish state was provided by Guardian north-east football correspondent, Louise Taylor, in a piece titled ‘England enter a politically loaded European Under-21 Championship‘, June 3.

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After explaining that Uefa’s award of the European Under-21 Championship to Israel is “politically loaded” Taylor then proceeds to devote nearly all of her 770 word report on the football tournament to the efforts of BDS campaigners who, she claims, regard Israel’s hosting of the games “as another kick in the teeth for Palestinians in the occupied territories.”

Though Taylor mostly sticks to the script, in reporting details of the boycott movement which has been reported elsewhere at the Guardian, she makes an error in the following passage:

The hurdles faced by Palestinian footballers, who have their own, Fifa-registered national side, were highlighted in November when more than 60 players from Europe’s major leagues, including Arsenal’s Abou Diaby and Newcastle’s Sylvian Marveaux, Papiss Cissé and Cheik Tioté, signed a petition demanding Uefa relocate the Under-21 tournament.

However, as we noted back in December after the Guardian’s Chris McGreal first reported news of the footballers’ “Declaration of support for Palestine, the original list of 62 included some footballers who didn’t in fact sign the petition.  As CAMERA noted at the time, shortly after the petition was first published the list of endorsers magically shrank.  

Here are the “signatories” who actually never ‘signed’ the petition:

  • André Ayew, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Jordan Ayew, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Yohan Cabaye, Newcastle United (UK)
  • Soulaymane Diawara, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Didier Drogba, Shanghaï Shenhua (China)
  • Rod Fanni, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Eden Hazard, Chelsea (UK)
  • Charles Kaboré, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Anthony Le Tallec, AJ Auxerre (France)
  • Steve Mandanda, Olympique de Marseille (France)
  • Arnold Mvuemba, Olympique Lyonnais (France)

Indeed, the petition currently posted on the website of former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute only shows 52 names. (Eden Hazard is still listed on his site despite the fact that the Chelsea star denied signing it, bringing the actual number down to 51.)

We can only hope that following this story Louise Taylor will avoid politics and return to writing about sport, where she may be less prone to committing such unforced errors. 

Guardian provides PR for failing BDS campaign against EU football championship in Israel

The 2013 European Under-21 Football Championship (UEFA U-21) – hosted by Israel from June 5th through the 18th – represents the 19th staging of the event.  National football teams from all over Europe will compete, with England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, the Netherlands and Norway, alongside Israel, all vying for the title of champion.

Anti-Israel boycott campaigners (branded as “Red Card Israeli Racism”) are campaigning for the tournament not to be held in Israel as part of a sporting boycott of the Jewish state. And, though their BDS efforts will certainly fail, the Guardian has begun providing these anti-Israel campaigners with the publicity they desire. 

Indeed, the latest two Guardian reports on their site’s Israel page are a letter calling on the UEF (Union of European Football) to reverse their decision to choose Israel as a venue (Uefa insensitivity to Palestinians plight’, May 27), and a story, in the sports section, reporting on the publication of the very same letter the Guardian had just published (‘Uefa accused of ignoring anti-Palestinian bias‘, David Feeny, May 28).

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Here’s the text of the May 27 Guardian letter:

On Friday, delegates from European football associations gathered in a London hotel for Uefa‘s annual congress (Report, 24 May). They agreed new, strict guidelines to deal with racism, suggesting a commendable determination to combat discrimination in the sport.

We find it shocking that this same organisation shows total insensitivity to the blatant and entrenched discrimination inflicted on Palestinian sportsmen and women by Israel.

Despite direct appeals from representatives of the sport in Palestine and from anti-racist human rights campaigners across Europe, Uefa is rewarding Israel’s cruel and lawless behaviour by granting it the honour of hosting the European Under-21 finals next month.

Uefa should not allow Israel to use a prestigious football occasion to whitewash its racist denial of Palestinian rights and its illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

We urge Uefa to follow the brave example of world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking who, on advice from Palestinian colleagues, declined to take part in an international conference in Israel. We call on Uefa, even at this late stage, to reverse the choice of Israel as a venue.

Here are the signatories to the BDS call in the Guardian. As you’ll note by reading our brief bios, the group is dominated by ‘Patrons’ from the fringe group, Palestine Solidarity Campaign:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu:  Former civil rights leader in South Africa with an apparent blind spot when it comes to Jews.  Tutu, for instance, has evoked classic antisemitic stereotypes and tropes about Jewish “arrogance”, “power” and money.

Frédéric Kanouté: A footballer who, we revealed in early December, had falsely claimed that several other footballers had called on European football’s governing body to cancel Israel’s hosting of the Under-21 Finals.

John Austin MP: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and Former Labour MP for Woolwich.

Rodney Bickerstaffe: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron.

Bob Crow: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron.

Victoria Brittain: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and former Guardian associate foreign editor, who once chaired an event at the pro-Hamas group, MEMO.

Jeremy Corbyn MP: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and an obsessively anti-Israel campaigner who had participated in a meeting organized by the openly pro-Hamas group MEMO, and has actually opined quite explicitly in defense of both Hamas and Hezbollah.

Caryl Churchill: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and author of the antisemitic play Seven Jewish Children’.

Rev Garth Hewitt: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron, and singer/songwriter.

Dr Ghada Karmi: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron, one-state promoter and ‘Comment is Free’ contributor.

Bruce Kent: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron.

Ken Loach: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron, and a film-maker who has participated in countless anti-Israel campaigns, and has even participated in the kangaroo court known as the Russell Tribunal on Palestine where he accused the Jewish state of adopting a policy of ‘racial purity’.

Michael Mansfield QC: A British lawyer and Palestine Solidarity Campaign supporter, who has endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood-led ‘Free Gaza’ campaign – and also has participated in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Kika Markham: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron, Actor, and supporter of Viva Palestina

Luisa Morgantini: Former vice-president, European parliament. 

Prof Hilary Rose, Prof Steven Rose: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patrons, and among the founding members of British Committee for Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). Their obsessive criticism of Jews, and of the Jewish state, inspired Anthony Julius to observe that they seem “proud to be ashamed to be Jews”. 

Alexei Sayle: Author and comedian, Palestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and Marxist.

Jenny Tonge: Most notable for her remarks that she might have been a suicide bomber had she been born a Palestinian, as well as her claim that “the pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the Western World, its financial grips [and] a certain grip on [the Labor] party”. Tonge also is infamous for calling on Israel to “investigate” the IDF in light of charges they were stealing organs in Haiti. 

Dr Antoine ZahlanPalestine Solidarity Campaign Patron and Arab academic.

Geoffrey Lee: Affiliated with the group leading efforts to boycott Israeli football, ‘Red Card Israeli Racism‘ 

Tomas Perez: According to the Guardian, he’s affiliated with the group Football Beyond Borders

John McHugo: Chair of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine, board member of CAABU, the Council for Arab-British Understanding. He has also contributed essays for the website of the pro-Hamas group MEMO.

Roger Lloyd Pack: Actor best known for his role as ‘Trigger’ in the BBC series ‘Only Fools and Horses’

Whilst this campaign, like so many other abysmal attempts to isolate Israel by the anti-Zionist left, will certainly fail, it’s important to contextualize BDS in all of its manifestations as the political derivative of various Arab (and Soviet) led boycotts which have been used for many decades as weapons in the war against Israel.  In its modern incarnation BDS represents the main component of the “Durban strategy” – adopted by the NGO Forum of the UN’s Durban Conference (2001) – adopted by pro-Palestinian groups to completely isolate Israel by promoting economic, academic, cultural and even (as in this case) sporting boycotts of Israel.

As NGO monitor summed up the BDS movement:

  • Boycotts are the antithesis of dialogue, cooperation, and developing peaceful ties between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • Ali Abunimah, major BDS speaker and head of “Electronic Intifada,” labels Palestinian leaders who negotiate with Israel “collaborators.”
  • BDS activists promote “one-state” solutions, meaning the elimination of Israel as the historic homeland of the Jewish nation. (A political goal which is codified as antisemitic by the EU.)

Further, this particular boycott movement – targeting Israel by attempting to politicize European football – has garnered almost no traction beyond marginal figures and a few extreme anti-Israel movements.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said after Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell asked why the government was supporting the tournament: “I do not believe that sporting fixtures should be an obstacle to political progress of any form”. Responding to the president of the Palestinian Football Association, FIFA President Platini said that UEFA did not believe in “punishing people and isolating them”.

Additionally, it is worth noting that the Israeli U21 squad comes from a range of backgrounds, and includes Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis and foreign football players.

We’ll leave you with a video featuring two outstanding Israeli players – Captain Eyal Golasa, a Netanya native who plays for Maccabi Haifa, and Moanes Dabur, an Arab-Israeli player for Maccabi Tel Aviv – talking about the Israeli national under-21 team and showing off their skills.

Two footballers cited by Chris McGreal as endorsers of anti-Israel petition flatly deny signing it

H/T Raphael

The Guardian’s Chris McGreal published a story (Footballers condemn plans to hold U21 European Championship in Israel‘) on Nov. 30 about a petition signed by some footballers calling for European football’s governing body to cancel Israel’s hosting of an important 2013 European competition in response to the recent Gaza war.

mcgreal

McGreal’s piece begins, thus:

“A group of Premier League footballers and players in other major European leagues have condemned plans to hold the Under-21 European championship in Israel next year, saying it will be seen as a “reward” for this month’s assault on Gaza in which young people playing football were killed when a sports stadium was bombed.

The signatories, who include Eden Hazard of Chelsea, Abou Diaby of Arsenal and five Newcastle players – Papiss Cissé, Cheick Tioté, Sylvain Marveaux, Yohan Cabaye and Demba Ba – also criticised Israel’s continued detention without charge or trial of two Palestinian footballers.

Several former Premier League players have also signed the letter, including Didier Drogba and Frédéric Kanouté, both of whom now play in China. Players with QPR, Stoke, Blackburn and Ipswich are among the signatories along with footballers in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Turkey.”

While you can read our post about the broader issue of McGreal’s lack of interest in the fact that Hamas used the Gaza sports stadium in question as a rocket launching site during the war, at least two of the players cited by McGreal in this latest report have flatly denied signing the petition.

Former Chelsea player Didier Drogba denied signing the petition, and wrote the following on Twitter: “Please note I did not sign this petition or give my support to this initiative.”

Additionally, Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye says he, too, didn’t sign the anti-Israel petition. According to the Daily Reporter, Cabaye says that he “has never been a signatory” to the campaign.

The petition appears to have been organized by former Tottenham and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute, whose personal website lists 62 players (including Drogba and Cabaye) allegedly supporting the anti-Israel action.

You can Tweet Fredric Kanoute @FredricKanoute and ask that he remove the names of Drogba and Cabaye from his site. 

Also, Kanoute has an open Facebook page, which means that you can comment beneath links he shares, such as this one:

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While you’re at it, you can also Tweet Chris McGreal @ChrisMcGreal and ask that he revise his report accordingly.