Today, Thursday 12th March, Maccabi Tel Aviv is playing Barça at the Palau Blaugrana in a Top 16 Euroleague Basketball match. In recent years, it has been common to see and hear slogans in favor of freedom of the Palestinian people, whenever the Israeli team has come to the Palau Blaugrana. The solidarity of supporters’ clubs with the Palestinian cause has led to a lawsuit being filed against the Euroleague (the Barcelona-based organizer of the competition) demanding Maccabi Tel Aviv be excluded from the European competition.
It has also been common in recent years to see how the security around the Palau Blaugrana has been excessively stepped up whenever the Maccabi Tel Aviv team has played there. One of the Barça supporters’ clubs, Sang Culé Cor Català, described in a statement on Tuesday some of the many ways the Israeli team and Mossad, the Israeli secret services, show their power, including searches, the use dogs and confiscating Palestinian flags.
This year, however, the Catalan police have gone even further: as reported by two of the club’s supporters’ groups (Dracs 1991 and Sang Culé Cor Català), they announced specific bans, under threat of arrest, against carrying Palestinian flags, displaying placards or banners in Arabic, singing about or mentioning Palestine, or chanting slogans against Maccabi or the State of Israel. Catalan society was quick to show its rejection of these bans, which are a clear attack on freedom of expression. Eventually, this morning the FC Barcelona security manager told the supporters it was going to change the guidelines for this game. It will now allow Palestinian flags into the stadium and the shouting of pro-Palestinian chants, but the ban on placards or banners in Arabic has not been lifted.
The Stop Complicity with Israel Coalition (CPCI) denounces the repression this announcement represents, as well as the serious attack on freedom of expression it entails. At the same time, we believe banning placards in Arabic is a serious act of racism, Arabic since it criminalizes and stigmatizes a specific culture. In fact, such a ban is illegal under the current law against violence, racism, xenophobia and intolerance in sport. The ban is Islamophobic, as justifying discriminatory practices and hostility towards Muslims amounts to Islamophobia according to the Runnymede Commission.
Furthermore, the opposition to the match between FC Barcelona and Maccabi Tel Aviv by a broad spectrum of Catalan civil society is due to the fact that it is used to foster a favourable image of Israel, thus legitimizing the occupation, colonization and apartheid in Palestine. Israel is not an example to be followed, not a normal country, as some people try to make out. A boycott of Israel on all fronts (economic, academic, cultural, institutional and sports), just like that employed by the nonviolent struggle against South African apartheid, is a way of forcing an end to the apartheid suffered by the Palestinian people since 1948.
The BDS Catalunya group and the Stop Complicity with Israel Coalition regard Maccabi Tel Aviv as an “ambassador” of Israel and deserving of the same treatment given to the Springboks national rugby team when it was subjected to a boycott due to its collaboration with, and role as representative of, the South African apartheid state.
The Springboks were unable to play away from home and very few teams visited South Africa. In 1960, South Africa was expelled from the Commonwealth and in 1972 it was excluded from the Olympic Games in Munich. The sports boycott -endorsed by the United Nations Assembly, the economic and academic boycotts, the tourism and arms sanctions imposed by the UN, and international pressure on the Pretoria government played a decisive part in bringing about the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
As Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian exiled in Britain, has said, “This approach to Israeli culture and academia as separate entities from the army, the occupation and the destruction is morally corrupt and logically defunct.”
For these reasons, the undersigned organizations demand that:
- FC Barcelona put a stop to these racist attacks on freedom of expression in its stadium and, therefore, repudiate these bans that violate human rights and freedom of expression
- the Catalan police withdraw the prohibition on placards and banners in Arabic in the stadium
- the Catalan Ministry of the Interior provide transparency in its dealings with the Israeli intelligence agency (Mossad). We believe that secret agreements subordinate our independent organs of government to the orders of foreign power. There is no democratic control over these arrangements by the Catalan people. These actions have sacrificed Catalan rights in the period before and after the match, bringing them down to the level of the Israeli state
- the Euroleague expels Maccabi from its competition, thereby avoiding its becoming a showcase for the colonial and racist policies of the State of Israel
- Coalició Prou Complicitat amb Israel (CPCI)
- BDS Catalunya
- Associació Catalana de Jueus i Palestins (JUNTS)
- Complicitats Que Maten (CQM)
- Dones x Dones
- Rumbo a Gaza Catalunya
- Comunitat Palestina de Catalunya
- ACSUR Catalunya
- Servei Civil Internacional de Catalunya (SCI-Cat)
- En Lluita
- Centre Euro Àrab de Catalunya
- Red Solidaria contra la Ocupación de Palestina (RESCOP)
- Aturem la Guerra
- Intersindical Alternativa de Catalunya (IAC)
- Zona Roja – Supporters Barri Antic
- CUP Països Catalans
- Revolta Global
- Sindicat de Comissions de Base (co.bas)
- Procés Constituent
- Sindicato Andaluz de Trabajadores (SAT)
- Red Internacional de Judíos Antisionistas (IJAN)
- Confederació General del Treball (CGT) de Catalunya
- Esquerra Unida i Alternativa (EUiA)
- Barcelona en Comú
- Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC) Barcelona
- Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV)
- Papers i Drets per a Tothom
- International Solidarity Movement (ISM) Estado Español
- Corrent Roig
- Podem Barcelona
- Rumbo a Gaza – Estat espanyol
- Endavant OSAN
- L’Aurora Organització Marxista
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