'Friends of Palestine' like Victorian Greens MLC Colleen Hartland bring to mind the lines of William Blake: Thy friendship oft has made my heart to ache; do be my enemy - for friendship's sake.
"The Parliamentary Friends of Israel and the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine made history, hosting their first joint event on Tuesday at Parliament House in Melbourne. The function farewelled football and community leaders bound for Israel to work with the Peace Team, an Australian Rules football team of Israelis and Palestinians... Caulfield MP [Liberal] and co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel David Southwick said the event was unprecedented and hoped it would usher in a new era of cooperation... 'If kids can play together, who are from different beliefs and different extremes, then we should be able to do the same sort of thing in the Victorian parliament'... Greens Colleen Hartland, the Greater Western Metropolitan MP and co-convener of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine said the coming together was natural. 'It took very little effort, just an email from the Friends of Israel and one back', Hartland said. 'We all thought, 'this sounds great'. It was just so obvious for the 2 groups to be involved'. The Greens MP said sport was a great equaliser. 'It is so imortant for young people to meet each other and see each other for what they are. Sport is one of those connectors'... The Peace team is the brainchild of Peres Centre for Peace Australian Chapter's Tanya Oziel and is being supported by The Peres Centre for Peace in Israel and Palestinian partner Al-Quds Association for Democracy & Dialogue." (History in the making, The Australian Jewish News, 17/6/11)
So all it took was a little email from a Zionist, and the Victorian Greens ('we'), without any discernible thought or research, threw caution to the winds and embraced a cheap little Zionist BDS-busting PR stunt, the sports equivalent of Paul Howes' TULIP.
Anyone with any nous could see this one coming a mile off: "Asked to comment on the stark contrast between the Victorian Greens working towards peace through dialogue, and the NSW Greens promoting boycotts against Israel, Hartland was tight-lipped. 'Peace is the most important thing that could ever occur', she said." (ibid)
For want of a little research this embarrassing collaboration could have been avoided. The following googled items say it all:
1. The Peres Centre for Peace in Israel
"The Peres Center was set up by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. It states as its mission 'to build an infrastructure of peace and reconciliation' in the Middle East. In practice, however, that translates as normalising the occupier/occupied relations of the Palestinians and Israelis. One of the Center's tools to 'promote peace and reconciliation' in the Middle East is through sports. In 2005 the Center organised a mixed Israeli/Palestinian football team to play Barcelona FC in Spain. Mr Dawood Hammoudeh, a researcher at 'Stop the Wall' NGO thinks the initiative was a cross between a publicity stunt and pro-Israel propaganda. 'It was a response to the Spanish boycott movement of Israeli football, an attempt to improve Israel's 'image', he told us. The [Center] also runs a program called the 'Twinned Peace Sports Schools' program. Each year the program brings around 2,000 children from the West Bank and Israel to play football or basketball together. The Peres Center claims the program is designed to 'instil values of peaceful coexistence' and allow participants to 'foster a profound appreciation of peace'. 'No such program should exist while the occupation continues', says Mr Hammadeh. Most Palestinians claim that the program portrays a false image of Palestinian/Israeli relations, one of normality, when in fact things are anything but. The Wall, the occupation, the daily military raids are glossed over to create a rosy picture of coexistence. 'They don't try to tackle the real issues', continued Mr Hammoudeh. The website talks of 'unexpected relationships and bonding between Palestinian and Israeli children'. Yet how can these relationships ever move beyond the superficial when the Palestinians live under military occupation and under normal circumstances are refused entry to Israel?" (What is the Peres Center up to? Clive Granger, Palestine Monitor, 9/12/10)
2. Palestinian Football
a) ".[I]n November 2006, the Palestinians failed to play against Singapore in the Asian Cup qualifier due to the singular reason that Israel barred team players from travelling out of Gaza. Earlier in 2006, Israel fired a missile into the densely populated Gaza Strip which destroyed its only football stadium. Such acts of sabotage thwart all efforts made by Palestinians to progress in this sport in their home territories. The world football organization FIFA granted Palestinians a nation status for the purposes of entering the world cup tournament in 1996. Since then, Israel has at every opportunity attempted to prevent the Palestinian football team from fielding its first choice players at the World Cup qualifiers. Israel's targeting of the Palestinian stadium and the restriction of movement has meant the Palestinian team is forced to have its practise sessions in Egypt. The team manager is faced with the challenge of training the players on an ad hoc basis, depending on who can manage to circumnavigate the Israeli checkpoints and travel to Egypt, and is also forced to wait until just before the starting whistle to name his squad based on the players present. Of course it naturally follows that the Palestinian side can therefore never experience the luxury of a home game - or an away game - in the presence of cheering Palestinian crowds. Israel's deliberate targeting of sports facilities, punitive travel restrictions on Palestinians, general undermining of Palestinian football, and in particular obstructing Palestinians from participating in international tournaments, has to be categorised as racial discrimination." (Blow the whistle on Israel: England's forthcoming soccer match with Israel conflicts with the campaign to keep racism out of sport, Ismael Patel, guardian.co.uk, 18/3/07)
b) "A friendly game between an Arab soccer team and a Palestinian team was supposed to inaugurate the new stadium being built in the eastern part of Al-Bireh, near Ramallah, at the end of the year. 'Supposed to' because the Civil Administration, an arm of the Defense Ministry, has ordered that the work be halted and is threatening demolition. FIFA, the international soccer federation, financed the stadium as part of a larger program to promote Palestinian soccer. The stadium covers 11 dunums (2.75 acres) and will hold 8,000 seats. An Israeli contractor, in partnership with a Dutch company and a Palestinian subcontractor, constructed the field. In October 2008, when the field was ready, FIFA president Joseph Blatter and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad laid the cornerstone for the stadium. The governments of France and Germany are paying for the construction of stands. The outer wall, the lighting and the scoreboard are being financed by the Al-Bireh municipality, which owns the land and within whose jurisdiction the stadium is located. In 1973, the municipality submitted for the approval of the IDF a detailed plan for the area where the stadium is now located. It received final approval from Israel's national Planning and Building Council and Supreme Planning Council in 1981. Nevertheless, on October 11 of this year, Israeli soldiers and representatives of the Civil Administration showed up at the site. They arrived via the neighbouring Jewish settlement of Psagot, which overlooks Palestinian neighbourhoods and was built on Al-Bireh land. They delivered a stop-work order from the administration to one of the workers (whose name was handwritten, in Hebrew, on it). On November 1, the municipality received a 'final' stop-work order - addressed anonymously to 'the holder', from 'the Supreme Planning Council's building inspection subcommittee', and issued by 'Assaf'. The document claims that work on the stadium's stands is being carried out 'without a license', and contains other standard admonitions: 'You were given an opportunity to appear before the inspection subcommittee to state your case. The subcommittee has concluded that the aforementioned work was carried out without proper permission... You are hereby obligated, in accordance with section... of the 1966 City, Village and Buildings Planning law, to cease activity upon and use of said land, and to raze the building... and to restore the location to its previous state within 7 days... If you do not act as required, all legal means will be taken against you, including demolition of the structure and any means required to restore the situation to its prior state, at your expense'. A German source has told Haaretz: 'This could become a major diplomatic issue between Germany and Israel. Just imagine: a German-financed project being torn down. It would definitely be a political scandal'." (What does Israel have against a Palestinian stadium? Amira Hass, Haaretz, 26/11/09)
3. Israeli Football
"A few months before seeing Beitar [Jerusalem]'s game against Hapoel Tel Aviv, I had visited Teddy Stadium for a match that epitomised another, uglier divide in Israeli society. The visiting team was Bnei Sakhnin, at the time the only club in the top division from an Israeli-Palestinian town, and one that is seen as the sporting standard-bearer of the country's Arab minority. Even more than on normal nights, the chants and songs from Beitar's terraces were full of anti-Arab sentiment. The away fans were screamed down as 'terrorists' and taunted with chants of 'The Temple Mount is ours' - a reference to the site in Jerusalem's Old City which is venerated by both Muslims and Jews. Easily the most popular chant, sung to a strikingly melodious tune, went like this: 'This is the Land of Israel/ This is the Land of the Jews/ We hate you Salim Touama [an Arab-Israeli football player]/ We hate all the Arabs'. Aaron Mordechai, a Beitar fan, is frustrated with the goalless draw, and angry with the referee and the opposing team. 'This is the problem with the Arabs', he says. 'Wherever they are, they make trouble'." (The not-so-beautiful game of football in Israel, Tobias Buck, ft.com, 2/1/10)
What ever happened to homework?