Northern Ireland news

Palestinians call on soccer chiefs to cancel Northern Ireland V Israel game

An Israeli flag flies close to Windsor Park in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann.
Connla Young

MEMBERS of the Palestinian community have called on soccer chiefs to cancel a friendly match against Israel due to be played in Belfast next week.

The Palestinian Democratic Forum in Northern Ireland made the call in a letter to the Irish News which is published today.

Representatives of the group met with Irish Football Association chief executive Patrick Nelson earlier this week to discuss the issue.

Almost 6,000 people have signed a Change.org petition organised by BDS Ireland calling on Mr Nelson to cancel the friendly game at Windsor Park next Tuesday.

BDS Ireland promotes the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, which encourages the international community to turn its back on Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians.

Writing in the Irish News today Mohammed Samaana from the Palestinian Democratic Forum in Northern Ireland repeated the call for the IFA to cancel the controversial game.

“We in the Palestinian Democratic Forum believe a long-lasting and just peace based on UN resolutions and International Law could only be achieved if the International Community pressurises Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land,” he said.

“We urge the IFA to cancel the match with Israel.”

A spokesman for The Irish Football Association last night said it “has no intention of cancelling” the game.

Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis also called for the game to be called off.

“The Israeli government must feel the pressure of the international anger at their mass killings, human rights violations and flagrant violations of international law. Ironically, their disgraceful restrictions placed on Palestinians prohibits the Palestinian team from flourishing internationally,” he said.

However, the Ulster Unionist Party's sports spokesman Andy Allen backed the IFA's position.

“When it comes to friendly matches, the IFA has both the independence and freedom to decide who Northern Ireland should play,” he said.

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