Palestinian envoy in Manama under fire for encouraging Bahrainis to play in Palestine

April 10, 2010

The Palestinian ambassador to Bahrain is under fire for urging the local authorities to go ahead with a football match next month in Palestine.

“We are shocked that while our people are suffering from the onslaught of those who promote normalisation of ties with the Zionist enemy, the Palestinian ambassador adds fuel to the fire by claiming that the planned football match is not a form of establishing contact with the Zionists,” Abdullah Abdulmalek, the spokesperson for the Bahraini Society for Resisting Normalisation with the Zionist Enemy, said. “The ambassador has the right to remain committed to the policies promoted by the Palestinian Authority, but he has no right to promote any form of normalization to Arabs in general and to Bahrainis in particular,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

All entry points into Palestine, except that of Rafah, are controlled by “Zionists” and no-one can enter without their approval and inspection, Abdullah said.

“In all cases, the issue is not just stamps, but the very visit to Occupied Palestine with the approval of the Zionists. The Zionist entity has been pushing hard for Arab delegations to use those entry and exit points to reinforce the culture of accepting its existence,” the spokesperson said.

Several activists, MPs and players have objected to the friendly between Bahrain and Palestine on May 28 on the grounds that “it amounted to a form of normalization with the Zionist entity” and that “the Bahraini passports would have the Israeli border police stamps.” Several Arab countries do not allow visitors with passports carrying the Israeli stamp.

The lower chamber of the bicameral parliament on Tuesday called for the cancellation of the match.

“We do not want the national team to travel to play the game and have their passports stamped by the Israelis,” the MPs said. “That would be a form of normalisation that we utterly reject.”

However, last week, Ahmad Ramadhan, the Palestinian envoy in Manama, denied as “baseless” the reports that the Israelis would handle the Bahraini team and that their passports would have the Israeli stamps.

“Media reports claiming that the Bahraini passports would have the Israeli stamps are not true,” Ahmad Ramadan said.

“The Israelis will have nothing to do with the Bahraini team, particularly that the football match will be held under the auspices of FIFA, the international football federation,

But for the Bahraini anti-Zionist society, the ambassador should have refrained from making any comments on the issue.

“He should have remained silent instead of looking for excuses for normalization with the Zionist entity, particularly that the normalisation scenario is moving ahead according to plans,” Abdullah said. “The fact that the ambassador talks about an international economic with the participation of Arab delegations reinforces our conviction that there are among us people who adhere to the international policy of encouraging economic, political, cultural and sports relations between Arab countries and the Zionist entity,” he said.

The Palestinian diplomat had said that Al Ram, a small town where the planned match could take place, would in early June host an international conference in which several Arab delegations would take part.

“The participants will be allowed into Palestine without Israeli stamps. We have had several international meetings in Palestinian towns and the delegations had nothing to do with the Israeli border authorities,” he said.

Initial reports said that the match would be held in Jerusalem, but the ambassador said that it would be in Al Ram, an area between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

Al Hussaini stadium at Al Ram was inaugurated in October 2008 when Palestine hosted their first international match at home since becoming affiliated to FIFA in 1998.

Previously, they did not have a pitch up to international standards and had to play their “home” matches outside the country, either in Jordan or Qatar.

“The aim of football is not only to put the ball in the net, but to touch the world and build a better future,” said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter at the inauguration of the stadium where Palestine and Jordan fittingly played out a 1-1 draw.

Few well-known Arabs have made the trip to Ramallah.

Hind Sabri, a Cairo-based Tunisian actress came under harsh criticism after she made a trip to Ramallah and met several Palestinians, including President Mahmood Abbas, visited refugees’ camps and attended the training of the Palestinian women’s football team.

Lashing back at her critics, Hind said that they did not really appreciate the pain and plight of the Palestinians and were instead engaged in frivolous outbidding.

 “Those who have attacked me do not make any sense. Accusing anyone who visits Palestine of promoting the normalisation of ties with Israel is utterly senseless,” she said. “In fact, whoever visits Palestine contributes to the breaking of the blockade imposed on the Palestinians and puts a smile on the faces of its people. I do invite all Arabs, particularly artists, to visit Palestine because they cannot really appreciate the painful reality on the ground unless they witness it and feel the frustration suffered by the Palestinians.”


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About the author

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

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