Thursday, December 28, 2006

Op-Ed: Soccer for Peace by Mohammed Mar'i -- Ramallah, Palestine

The Match of Peace
By Mohammed Mar'i

(Permission granted to republish this column in full with attribution to the author. You are also encouraged to make a donation as a fee to the author for publishing rights.)

(Arab American Media Services/Ramallah, Palestine) -- With an attractive slogan "It's Possible" the "Match for Peace" took place on Wednesday December 27th 2006 at 9 PM at the Olympic Stadium of Seville, the Andalusian capital in Spain. The Peace Team from renowned Palestinian and Israeli soccer players came together to play a magnificent soccer match with a team of Andalucian soccer stars from the Spanish Premier League.

The Peace Team is sponsored by the Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres and his center (Peres Center for Peace). The "Match for Peace" was hosted by the Junta de Andalucia to send the international community a positive message of Palestinian-Israeli cooperation, highlighting the importance of continued efforts to build peace between the sides.

A long side Shimon Peres, Jibril Rajjoub, Palestinian National Security Advisor, Michel Platini, French soccer star, and a number of dignitaries, royal representatives and political leaders will come to show their support for peace.

The Palestinian players from the West Bank and Gaza Strip arrived to Seville through Jordan and Egypt since they are not allowed to travel through the Ben Gurion Airport due to security measures exercised against the Palestinians. The Peres Center for Peace which organizes and participates in the "Match for Peace" to foster a strong alliance for peace was not able to organize this very important symbolic move which is to depart from the same place.

The uniform of the "peace Team" was red. It was an important symbol also. The red color in Palestinian- Israeli daily life is connoted with blood and death that we hated to see in TV screens every day. There, in Seville, the red has another connotation. It is a symbol for peace of peace that we hope to achieve between the two Peoples.

Ninety amazing minuets passed in the Olympic Stadium, the Palestinian players replace their Israeli colleagues. Imad Nasser El Deen replaces David Ravivo. The Israel national coach Dror Kashtan and Palestinian coach Jamal Hadeideh of the West Bank Tulkarm club worked together in harmony, the matter which is absent all the time. The two coaches left just one Palestinian player in the second half, but they remembered to add four Palestinian players later. They remembered that no side can be eliminated from the scene.

Politics for the Palestinians and Israelis is fate. Peres, even he was sponsor of the event, was updated of the Israeli government decision to renew targeted killing of Palestinian activists. He hoped that" the Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas will resolve their differences so that they can both work together with Israel for peace in the Middle East", and that" he was aware of the "profound differences" between Fatah leader and Palestine National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of the Islamic movement Hamas, but that it was necessary for the two to cooperate", and that " he believed Hamas was an important force in the peace process and must play a role in it, and the group's importance in the religious sphere and in the economy of Gaza", Spanish national news agency Efe reported.

But Peres knows that a "Palestina Libre" as written in Spanish behind the goal keeper, needs a renewal of the peace process to bolster the moderates in the two sides, to give the two Peoples hope in place of daily depression.

The Israeli sports commentator Shlomo Scharf said that if he given the authority to replace players, he will replace the defense with General Rajjoub, who has a long experience in defense. It is known that Rajjoub is a peace warrior but the Israelis damaged his security headquarters in Ramallah. Do they really want moderates in the Palestinian People?

Scharf was astonished that he found supporters for "Bitar Yorshalaim" soccer team, but once the Israeli player Klemi Saban scored his goal, Palestinian flags were waving to salute him. The Israeli player Haim Ravivo played thirty five minutes though he didn't play since two and a half year, whereas the Israeli decision to remove checkpoints and other good-will steps evaporated like dreams.

"It is Possible". All the Palestinian People know that it is possible to reach a lasting peace if Israel has the intention. As it is possible for the kids Mohammed of Abu Tour and Elian of Sderot to play football together, it is possible to put their dream to invite each other to his home into reality. It is possible to replace the Palestinian home made rockets and the Israeli artillery bombs with soccer goals between Palestinian and Israeli teams. It is possible to replace the slogan "Born to Kill", used to be written on the helmets of Israeli occupation soldiers, with "Yaboo Shalom Alaino O'al Kol H'olam", the song of Israeli singer Noa hoping that peace comes on us and the world.

It is possible to achieve peace if Peres kicks the peace process forward as he made the honorary kickoff at the start of the match, not to let this move for his successor as he did when he was the Israeli premier after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabbin. At that time, Peres was authorized to handle the West Bank City of Hebron with the late President Yasser Arafat according to Oslo agreement, Peres lifted this merit to his successor Benyamin Netanyahu.

We wasted months of negotiations between Arafat and Olmert to reach Wye River agreement just to handle Hebron.

* Mohammed Mar'i is a Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah.