Furore in Bahrain over football match in Jerusalem

April 4, 2010
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A football match between Bahrain and Palestine in Jerusalem has sparked furore in Bahrain with several players refusing to take part and MPs calling for its cancellation.

On Sunday, Al Asala, the Salafi formation with eight lawmakers in the 40-seat lower chamber, said that it “totally rejected” the game as “a form of normalization with the Zionist entity.”

“Even though the football federation said that the game is being organized in coordination with the ministry of foreign affairs, we totally refuse it since it will be held in occupied Palestinian lands,” Abdul Halim Murad, MP representing Al Asala, said. “The Bahraini players will need visas from the Zionist government to enter and that is a form of normalization that the national team and the people of Bahrain vehemently oppose,” he said.

Last week, the federation announced that the football match would be held on May 28 to support the Palestinians.

However, several players have expressed their unwillingness to make the trip and play the match, citing their opposition to playing in a city occupied by the Israelis.

“We pay rich tribute to the players for refusing to play there and for giving a shining example of how Bahrainis feel about the Zionists,” Abdul Halim said. 

The lawmaker said that the foreign ministry could hold the match in Gaza instead.

“The foreign ministry is saying that the match is to support the Palestinians. In that case, they should hold it in Gaza which has been liberated. The national team will get in there through the Rafah crossing point and will not have to go through the Israelis and will not contribute to recognizing the Zionist entity,” he said.

Bahrain, like most Arab countries, has no diplomatic relations with Israel, even though it had shut down an Israel boycott office as part of the requirements to sign a Free Trade Agreement with the US.

Last summer, Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa called upon Arabs to help influence the Israeli popular thinking by talking to Israeli media and explaining the Arabs’ calls for peaceful co-existence. Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa called for the formation of a regional forum that brings together all Arab countries, Turkey, Iran and Israel to address the crises plaguing the Middle East. Both moves by Bahrain have been supported as pragmatic solutions, but also resisted by anti-Israel activists as steps towards normalisation with Tel Aviv.

Tunisia and Palestine played a football match in Ramallah in November.  

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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