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Protesters Should Confront Israeli Tennis Player's Presence In New Zealand

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

I support the actions of Global Peace and Justice Auckland in protesting the appearance of Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer at the ASB Tennis Open.

I feel that they should be there to let the watching world know that there are New Zealanders who are opposed to the ongoing Israeli presence on Palestinian lands. They are rightly using Peer's presence at the tournament to point out that we, amongst other Western nations, are continuing to welcome Israeli athletes at a time when their continued occupation of Palestine shows no sign of ending.

What would have happened in 1990 when Iraq was occupying Kuwait - in other words, what would have happened had there been an invitation made to an Iraqi player? Would the ASB Open organisers of that year have ever considered inviting an Iraqi tennis player? No, not while the US under George Bush Senior was making a great song and dance over the equally illegal occupation of what was an oil rich, undemocratic emirate.

There are obviously double standards at play here. If anything, we should stand up to all occupying powers, especially the Israelis whose brutal oppression of the Palestinian people is descipable. Israel should know better in this respect given the sad history of anti-semitism against the Jewish people.

Therefore, it amazes me as to why the Israelis have sought to build a barrier wall to not only keep out suicide bombers but ordinary Palestinians themselves. What the Israelis have done throughout their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is to effectively constrain the economic, social, political and civil rights of the Palestinian people. What the Israelis have done is to effectively practise apartheid against the Palestinian people by first occupying their land, then building illegal settlements on it and then confining the subjugated population to what are effectively (as they were in South Africa) bantustans or ghettoes.

This is why veteran social justice campaigner and former anti-apartheid activist John Minto is spearheading the renewed round of protests against Peer. What he and his group Global Peace and Justice are saying is that many New Zealanders were opposed to sporting and cultural contacts with apartheid South Africa - so now why not revive the spirit of the old anti-apartheid movement and this time turn our attention to the newest practitioner of apartheid, Israel?

I say that's a great idea. If Israel isn't interested (for both economic and strategic reasons) in participating in the so-called peace process, then it's time to exert pressure on the country through other means. The primary means of doing so should be through imposing economic, military, sporting and cultural sanctions on Israel so that it is forced to withdraw from the Palestinian territories and back to its pre-1967 borders. Let's not forget that sanctions were successfully applied against apartheid South Africa.

While it may seem to some people that it's not fair to single out Peer, what must be remembered is that she has not come out and condemned Israeli policy as the Global Peace and Justice protesters have asked. That's why, in the current environment, it would be best for the UN General Assembly to impose sanctions on Israel so that all Israeli athletes and performers get the message, as do the wider Israeli public, that their occupation of Palestine is wrong.

By temporarily freezing sporting, cultural, military and economic contacts with Israel, we might be able to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian people and, through those means, induce the conditions that will lead to a lasting peace embracing both Israelis and Palestinians.



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