Desmond Tutu 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
European football's governing body, UEFA, is being accused of "rewarding Israel's cruel and lawless behavior" by granting it the honor of hosting the European Under-21 finals in June, The Guardian reported.
In a letter addressed to the British newspaper, figures such as Nobel peace prize laureate and former archbishop Desmond Tutu, footballer Frédéric Kanouté and famous playwright Caryl Churchill accused the football body of showing "total insensitivity to the blatant and entrenched discrimination inflicted on Palestinian sportsmen and women by Israel."
Signatories of the letter urged UEFA to follow the "brave" example of Stephen Hawking who declined to take part in an international conference in Israel.
They called on UEFA "to reverse the choice of Israel as a venue."
Reiterating their concern, the signatories said UEFA should "not allow" Israel to use a prestigious football occasion to "whitewash its racist denial of Palestinian rights and its illegal occupation of Palestinian land."
On Friday, the UEFA annual congress agreed new guidelines to deal with racism in the sport. The famous signatories responded to say it is "shocking" that the same organization could applaud Israel in spite of the Palestinian plight.
Last week, UEFA President Michel Platini assured the Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon that the 2013 European Under-21 Championship will go ahead as planned in Israel next summer despite mounting pressure following the jailing of a Palestinian national team player.
Palestinian FA president Jibril Rajoub urged UEFA to remove Israel as the host of the tournament last week, with Palestinian player Mahmoud Sarsak approaching a fourth month on a hunger strike after being held in administrative detention since 2009.Allon Sinai contributed to this report.