On October 10th the Portland Trailblazers will host Israeli Basketball League team Maccabi Haifa. Portland DSA are calling on the Blazers to respect the boycott of Israeli sports, called for by Palestinian civil society, and cancel the game. We are also asking that community groups, pro-Palestinian organizations, trade unions, supporters of the Blazers, and concerned citizens join us in an active boycott, protest, and flyering outside the Moda Center on the day of the game (October 10th, 6pm).
The ongoing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights — recognized as illegal under International Law — is one of land grabs, demolition of Palestinian homes, the encirclement and current siege of Gaza, indiscriminate killing of peaceful protestors, journalists and medics, and the declaration under Israeli law that Palestinians are second class citizens. This is not to mention the daily harassment, checkpoints, body searches, lack of job opportunities, and restrictions on movement faced by all Palestinians.¹
Sport plays its role in maintaining the occupation and reflects the racist characteristics of the Israeli state. Palestinian players are subject to the same restrictions and degradations as all Palestinians; they cannot get to games due to checkpoints, they are banned from training facilities, etc. Further Israel has explicitly targeted Palestinian sports personalities.
As reported in VICE in 2015, FIFA President Sep Blatter called for a peace match between Israel and Palestine soccer teams. Immediately following this announcement Israeli authorities detained Palestine national player Sameh Marraabeth at an Israeli controlled crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.²
Beyond the daily humiliation of occupation, players face racist abuse and targeted harassment on and off the field.³ Soccer and basketball supporters of several Israeli clubs have been sanctioned for racist abuse directed at Palestinian or black players.⁴ The Israeli football association enshrined the segregation of Israeli and ‘Arab’ children’s teams into its by-laws⁵ and it has been reported that several basketball teams have official or unofficial bans on hiring ‘Arab’ players. In basketball there are restrictions on the number of ‘non Israeli’ players teams can have on their roster. However non Israeli Jews do not count towards this. This has led to a situation where only one Palestinian plays for Israel’s top club.⁶
Sport is a political tool for the occupation. Palestinian stadiums have been bombed and destroyed, facilities have been occupied, and even sporting equipment has been blocked from entering Gaza. Seven Israeli soccer clubs and one Israeli Basketball team in the premier league, Hapoel Gilboa Galil, are situated in illegal settlements, in clear violation of international law. The Israeli government is acutely aware of this. The Times of Israel reported in 2017 that the Israeli government directly intervened to remove ‘occupied Palestine’ from the NBA’s website. ‘Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev wrote a scathing letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver demanding he remove the listing from NBA.com, citing the fact that it did not fall in line with US President Donald Trump’s position’ ⁷
Israel was founded on the displacement of some half a million Palestinians in 1947/48. With the support of the United States and its allies, it has operated as a settler colonial state with explicitly discriminatory, aparthied policies towards the Palestinian population, within and out side of Israel’s borders. By challenging the legitimacy of the occupation of Palestine, we challenge our own ruling classes’ role in supporting and maintaining this system of oppression
Socialists have a proud tradition of standing with oppressed people: from the anti colonial movements of the 50’s and 60’s through to South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. As an internationalist orginization, DSA sees it as our responsibility to offer solidarity to the Palestinian people in their anti-colonial, anti-apartheid struggle today.
The conditions for Palestinians within Israel and the occupied territories impress upon us all the need to act. It is clear that the boycott movement is having an effect both within Israel and here in the US. We ask that you join us in boycotting this, and future, sporting or cultural events, to oppose the racism and oppression of the occupation, and show your support for the Palestinian people.
1 For more details of the BDS movement see https://bdsmovement.net/