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Sunday Herald scores own-goal over footballing terrorist

The Sunday Herald has published what some consider a misleading interview with a young Palestinian footballer who is fronting a series of meetings across Scotland, for the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC). This is an extremist anti-Israel fringe group with a recorded history of interaction with anti-Semites, Holocaust denigrators and terrorist sympathisers.

Mahmoud Sarsak is presented by sports journalist Stewart Fisher as an innocent sports enthusiast caught for no apparent reason in the Israel security net as he attempted to cross from Gaza into Israel on his way to play in the Palestinian league. Fisher describes Sarsak as; “Just an ordinary football-daft young man.”

The article, which has more to do with the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) Movement’s demonising of Israel than about football, was featured in the sports section of the Sunday Herald. It follows the set pattern of presenting as a romantic figure someone with ties to Islamic Jihad.

Israel says Sarsak’s arrest was based on information from its intelligence apparatus, known internationally for its ability to gather information and act upon it, that he was a member of Islamic Jihad, a terrorist movement that had planted bombs and recruited and trained suicide bombers and other militants.

Sarsak spent three years in Israeli administrative detention, a legal security tool in the war on terror, for his alleged involvement with Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

Immediately on his release he was greeted by his jihadi brethren and wasted little time in joining SPSC and others in a futile attempt to convince UEFA to cancel its prestigious U-21 football tournament which was programmed in Israel.

That campaign was almost totally ignored and the tournament was a resounding success. UEFA President Michel Platini, when asked about the protest, said:

“We have solidarity with Palestinian football ... we have sent money, letters to press for the release of players and to get visas (but) Israel has just as many rights as anyone else to host a tournament. This shouldn't affect a youth tournament”. (CNN)

After the tournament, Platini commented:

“The stadiums were wonderful and well organised, the pitches excellent and the atmosphere in the stadiums was great with many families with young children attending. That is exactly the type of tournament that I like to see.” (Reuters)

Mahmoud Sarsak appears to be far from “Just an ordinary football-daft young man.” BBC Watch, an organisation that monitors BBC output on the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict, commented:

“In fact, Mahmoud Sarsak himself does not deny that he had connections to the PIJ – as his appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court indicates: Following the last judicial review (on August 18, 2011) by Judge Oded Mudrik of the Tel Aviv District Court to approve the extension of Sarsak’s detention for an additional six months, Sarsak appealed to the Supreme Court. His main claim was that much time had elapsed since he was connected to the PIJM and its activities.”

BBC Watch further reported

“It is not only Israel which ‘believes’ that Mahmoud Sarsak is a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative; the PIJ itself ‘believes’ so too. Hence, Sarsak was featured extensively on the Islamic Jihad’s ‘Saraya’ (military wing) website and, at the reception organized by that terror organisation for Sarsak upon his return to the Gaza Strip, Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam praised him as ‘one of our noble members.’”

Perhaps of more concern is the apparent support given to the SPSC campaign by former Celtic footballer, Jackie McNamara, currently manager of Dundee United, and Tony Higgins, also a former Scottish footballer and currently the Scottish representative at FiFPro, the international footballers union. Neither seems disturbed at the racism and anti-Semitism revealed by members of SPSC in their attacks on Israel and on Jews in Scotland.

Sarsak at Gaza football stadium terrorist rcoket launch site

Before lending their support,did either of these well-known Scots think to question Sarsak, pictured standing in a “Gaza stadium destroyed by Israel,” if he had ever objected to stadia being used to fire rockets at Israeli footballers and fans in southern Israel?

Mahmoud Sarsak at the bombed-out ruins of Gaza Stadium after it had been used as a launching site for rocket attacks on Israeli footballers and fans in southern Israel.

Did either Mr McNamara or Mr Higgins think to seek explanations from SPSC for its open sympathy for the Lebanese based terrorist group Hezbollah?

Do these sportsmen even consider the efforts that world football puts into encouraging Israeli and Palestinian youngsters to interact through football? That concept is alien to SPSC who decry reconciliation and the objective of all of football’s responsible bodies—to bring Israelis and Palestinians together.

To paraphrase the words of the late Abba Eban, then Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Palestine solidarity groups, Sunday Herald and perhaps Messrs McNamara and Higgins “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Scottish Friends of Israel.

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