The Jerusalem Post reports that “Mifalot, an organization seeking to promote peaceful coexistence through sports” organized a soccer tournament for Jewish Israeli and Palestinian youth outside of Tel Aviv. Part of Mifalot’s United Neighbor project and supported by the European Union, the soccer match falls within a larger initiative to use an internationally-loved sport and channel its positive energy into cooperation between the divided groups.
As soon as Fatah got its hands on photographic evidence of the travesty that is several young Israeli and Palestinian children peacefully enjoying themselves, “several Fatah activists posted threatening messages […] against the Palestinian boys and girls who participated in the tournament.”
According to Fatah, the main issue with a soccer game between Israeli and Palestinian kids is that they are afraid of “normalizing” relations between the two diametrically opposed sides. Also, Fatah believes that the organizers of the event “[ignore] the fact that Israel has not accepted the principle of coexistence and is continuing to violate all international laws and the will of the international community for achieving peace in the Middle East.”
Fatah’s views toward Israel’s government and its policies notwithstanding, it is unclear why the younger generation is receiving the punishment. Perhaps Fatah fears that a friendly soccer game might engender friendship between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, something they clearly want to avoid.
Another issue to consider is the overused “anti-Israel but not anti-Jew” mantra. It would be interesting to contemplate Fatah’s response had the soccer game been played between Palestinian and Israeli Arab youth. Would Fatah have had such a huge problem with it then?
Of course, the answer to this question is speculation — but it would not be too ridiculous to assume that Fatah would not have reacted as strongly, despite the fact that the Israeli Arabs are part of the same nation as the Israeli Jews. Therefore, it seems that the problem is that the Palestinian children were engaged with Jews, regardless of their affiliation with Israel.
Aside from the politics, barring young children from playing soccer because of political affiliation, nationality, or religion is nothing short of preposterous. It is backwards, degenerative and ignorant.
If Mahmoud Abbas wants peace (as he claims), he would do well to avoid allowing his party to teach children that coexistence is not tolerated. Evidently, as The Jewish Press sarcastically points out, “this disgusting [soccer game] obviously is an obstacle to the peace [that] Abbas wants, which is why he refuses to acknowledge Israel as [a] Jewish state.”
The older generation of both Israelis and Palestinians may be too far entrenched in their differences to ever come to terms. The hope clearly lies in younger, unblemished minds. However, if Jewish and Palestinian children cannot even engage in recreational activities without raising the alarm of Palestinian leadership, peace may be even further away than anyone had imagined.