Barcelona Football Club To Visit Israel and the Palestinian Land it Illegally Occupies August 03, 2013 12:31

So Barca are heading off to Israel and to the land it illegally occupies on a "peace tour". What could be better than this kind of wonderful gesture - Israeli and Palestinians will both get to play with Barcelona. The team, revered by many on both sides of the conflict, will meet the 'leaders' of both sides of the conflict, Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Abbas in Bethlehem. A great sporting initiative to bring people together for peace.

Or not.

Think about this. Liverpool, probably one of the most revered teams of the 80s, decides to undertake a tour of South Africa. They meet the children of apartheid soldiers living the high life in Sun City, kicking a ball around with PW Botha, hugs all round to the soldiers who on other days are brutalising the South African indigenous. Then off to the townships to play a couple of ceremonial matches, get some great photo ops of Grobbelaar, Rush and Dalglish with some cute black kids. All's well, no? Play with the soldiers who are doing the killing, but it's OK as you also played with the black kids.

Or, more contentious but still relevant, Italian club Internazionale, riding atop the Italian Serie A in the late 1930s, visits Nazi Germany, symbolically meeting with Hitler in Paris (a city that he occupies but is not his) to kick a couple of balls around, then heads off to find the French resistance and meet with them (yes, tough to imagine how this part could happen logistically!). How generous. Meeting with both sides to promote peace.

Well, no. Sometimes you have to accept that occupation, brutality, supremacy are wrong, and meeting with their perpetrators doesn't show that you're peace-loving. It shows that you're cowardly and too scared to call out blatant injustice when you see it. And meeting with the leader of the country which is the illegal occupier in occupied territory is NOT OK.

I know A LOT of Palestinian kids are going to LOVE to see Messi et al - they are revered by many of our children. And that will be beautiful for kids who daily suffer occupation, orphaning, imprisonment, mutilation and death. But the no doubt well-intentioned team needs to realise that sometimes you need to side with right against injustice and not pretend it's simply about people coming together. Because it isn't. It's about ending occupation, ending human rights abuses, ending apartheid, ending injustice.

Don't visit PW Botha. Don't visit Netanyahu. Don't go to Sun City. Don't go to occupied Jerusalem. Don't play with soldiers who's job it is to implement apartheid and supremacy, because doing so doesn't show that you're open minded to all side, it shows that you're prepared to lend your brand to brutal human rights abuse.