Sport at the center of the national liberation battle: the peak of the conflict (1970-1980)
Palestinian sports delegation at the Tokyo Olympics (Stephen McCarthy / Getty)
Sports represented an area of permanent conflict between the Zionist project and the Palestinian revolution. The former sought to artificially root the country through sports and establish Israel as a state with full characteristics, mathematically and politically, while the latter sought to achieve two clear goals: first; The embodiment of sport for the Palestinian national entity, by obtaining continental and international recognition of the Palestinian federations, ensuring that their players attend all international competitions, and by besieging Israel and expelling it from the continental and international federations, considering it another illegal occupation entity.
The conflict intensified in the seventies of the last century, after the establishment of an institution that regulates youth and sports in the PLO, and the successive entry of Arab and Islamic countries into the Asian federations. However, sport was engaged early in the conflict by the Zionist movement, the Palestinian political elite and the British occupation, each in their own way.
Sport was not absent from the Zionist project from the beginning of its concentration in Palestine, as the Zionist movement organized a special Olympic Games for teams representing Jews around the world, which were known as “Maccabi” clubs, and amid restrictions on immigration to Palestine in the mid-1930s of the last century there were championships. The Maccabees” is the cover that enabled the entry of tens of thousands of young men, who did not leave after the heroism ended, but were the backbone of the armed Zionist gang: Argun and Hagana.
As for the Palestinians, the beginnings of sports institutions were also early. The Arab Club in Jerusalem was one of the first clubs that was founded with a national political character. He assumed political roles related to the Arab national project, and others related to opposition to the Zionist project. For example, the mayor of Jerusalem, Musa Kazem al-Husseini, and high national figures, in 1929, on the balcony of the club, enthusiastically addressed the angry masses, as the first central breakthrough of Hibat Al. -Buraq, while Haj Amin Al-Husseini was one of the most significant founders of this club, which embraced the Arab Youth Forum in Palestine, and carried the slogan “The Land is Ours”, as the Literary Club, which also played a prominent political role, he created, along with the Arab Club, the core of the Palestinian political elite.
The Israeli-Palestinian sports clash, with the support of the Arabs, remained intense until the end of the seventies, no less than a battle in which fighters moved from one championship to another.
with British complicity; Israel succeeded in seizing the national team of the sports establishment in Mandatory Palestine. The Zionist movement took over the Palestinian Football Association when it was founded in 1928, because it excluded Arab teams and formed Jewish governing boards, despite the official protests of the Palestinians that FIFA, and their demands and the Arabs to establish an independent Palestinian alliance, or to pave the way At least the existing alliance, however, these efforts have always collided with the strong Zionist presence in the International Federation, which managed to obstruct the efforts of the Palestinian Football Association to join the International Federation until the 1990s.
After the establishment of the Liberation Organization; Awareness of the importance of sports in the national liberation struggle began relatively late. In 1969, the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports was established, which began an ongoing battle for the establishment of a Palestinian entity through sports, participating in regional, continental and international forums, and confronting the Israeli presence at the international level, which in turn established a network of supporters involved in many international federations, including the International Federation of Weightlifting and Bodybuilding.
the thirteenth of September 1974; The Asian Federation of Weightlifting and Bodybuilding opened its conference in Manila, and after the speech of the president of the Asian Federation, Bakhtoori Rana, and the recitation of administrative and financial reports, the speech of the secretary of the International Weightlifting Federation, Oscar, follows. The state, which demanded the exclusion of Palestine from the championship and the conference: “It is not a state and its people do not exist”. The head of the Palestinian delegation stood up and presented his objection, affirming the legitimacy of the moral entity of the Palestinian people. PLO, and condemned what the senior international official, who was later described as a Zionist by the Palestinian delegation, said.
Amid the back-and-forth duel, a spokesman for the Philippine Gaming Association granted a request by the International Federation of Foreign Affairs of his country to prevent the Palestinian delegation from entering and participating or to cancel the entire tournament, but the president of the Philippine Association violated his country’s foreign affairs position when addressed the Palestinians in a previous message, saying: “Bring it to Manila even if you swim.
With the state’s efforts failing, he tried to lure the Palestinian delegation when he offered them $50,000 in exchange for withdrawal, to the utter disapproval and rejection of the Palestinian side. Here the AFC president intervened, addressing the nation: “We will not allow anyone to tamper with our internal system. The Palestinian delegation will participate, whether you like it or not.” However, State escalated its speech, armed with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, and returned, brandishing the cancellation of the tournament, so that the Palestinian delegation announced that it would sponsor the tournament and organize it entirely at its own expense.
The Palestinian delegation contacted the Egyptian consulate asking for its intervention and protection for the delegation. Egypt intervened diplomatically, and Arab delegations supported the Palestinian position. in contrast; An organized Israeli media campaign began appearing in the Philippine media, calling for a ban on Palestinian participation, paralleling Israeli diplomatic efforts to allow a proper Israeli delegation to participate, but Arab efforts succeeded in consolidating the Palestinian presence and preventing Israeli participation, and the effort continued until 1978, when it culminated in the expulsion of Israel from the Asian Confederation, after the latter rejected the International Federation’s threat to punish the participants of the continental championship if Israel did not participate.
The failure of Israel’s efforts in the Philippines coincided with a fatal Arab blow to Israeli football, which was being prepared in Malaysia. While the Asian Weightlifting and Bodybuilding Congress was meeting in Manila, the Asian Football Confederation Congress was debating freezing Israel’s membership in the federation in Kuala Lumpur. Although Israel was a founding country of the AFC in 1954, it dominated its championships for two decades, as its team won the continental championship one of the three times it reached the final, while its clubs won the continental Champions League on three occasions as well. but the emergence of the Kuwaiti Ahmed Al-Saadoun and his leadership, Arab and Islamic efforts to exclude Israel from the union, changed the situation.
Its first practical steps began on September 15, 1974, when Al-Saadoun submitted a request to freeze Israel’s membership, amid the accession of several Arab countries to the association, and this happened two years later, as Israeli football remained without a continental association until in the early nineties.
Palestinian; The Supreme Youth Council played the role of regulator of the sports and youth sector, carrying the representation, participation and transmission of the national cause through sports as a central goal. The Council invested in the relations of the PLO with the socialist camp and revolutionary forces in the world to achieve this goal, an example of this is the membership of Palestine in the Asian Tennis Association.
in 1972; People’s China held a preparatory conference for the establishment of the Asian Tennis Federation. The Supreme Council took the opportunity to hold the conference in a friendly country. The Palestinian delegation went to Beijing headed by the Director General of the Council. Palestine is included in the preparations for the establishment of the federation, and received the status of a founding member, and even led the support of the host country. While Palestine does not lead the committee for the formation of the leadership of the union and receives the position of vice president.
in 1977; Palestine participated in the World Judo and Karate Championships in Japan, and during the opening and entry of the delegations into the competition arena, a member of the Israeli delegation waved its flag in a provocative scene. Who was at the head of the Israeli delegation, threw it to the ground, so that the arena witnessed a chase between the two sides, which was broadcast on Japanese television for a quarter of an hour. Later, the Palestinians were prevented from participating in the next editions of this tournament, after a great deal of diplomatic pressure from Israel on the International League.
The Israeli-Palestinian sports clash – supported by the Arabs – remained fierce until the end of the seventies, nothing less than a battle in which the warring parties moved from one championship to another, until 1982, when the Palestinian international presence declined. In sporting terms, Arab solidarity related to this presence declined, influenced by the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords and then by the Israeli aggression against Lebanon, which undermined PLO institutions, including the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports. However, that conflict left traces, some of which are still rooted in the Palestinian and Arab sports systems, the most important of which is the survival of some strongholds of the sports boycott, which were established in that period, to this day.