Congratulations to the pro-Palestinian protesters who opposed the Wales v Israel women’s football game at the Racecourse in Wrecsam last week.
Campaigners from the local area and across the country including south Wales, north west Wales, Liverpool, Chester, Manchester and London demonstrated inside and outside the football ground. The action was called in protest at Israel’s participation in international competitions while the Palestinian team is prevented from taking part, while Palestinian footballers including Mahmoud al Sarsak remain imprisoned without charge or trial, and while Israel continues to maintain its Apartheid regime.
Israel’s behaviour today towards the Palestinians is similar to that of South Africa’s apartheid regime towards the black population before 1990. Palestinians are being shot, imprisoned, harassed, separated from their families, stopped from working, blocked from farming their land by a ruthless military state purely on the basis of their nationality. Most noticeable is the 30′ apartheid wall being built around the Palestinians, effectively the biggest open prison in the world.
One of the most effective weapons in the struggle against apartheid was an economic boycott. Another was the sporting boycott, which meant that South Africa couldn’t pretend it was a normal society. It’s equally important that Israel cannot pretend it is “normal” either to its own citizens or those of other countries. Last week’s protest reminded both Welsh and Israeli football fans that there’s nothing normal about Israel.
Although most people stayed outside the ground holding banners, chanting, handing out flyers and engaging with punters, some activists gained entry. Others were refused – security were (selectively) asking to look in bags and one woman was prevented from using her free ticket for the match after a pro-Palestine sticker was found on her mobile phone. However, while she was arguing with security, others walked through unchallenged. Inside the ground there was an attempted pitch invasion, some people managed to wave flags and express their opposition loudly before being removed, while one man was thrown out merely for revealing his Palestine football shirt. The would-be streaker didn’t make it into the ground, unfortunately. Undeterred by one ejection, a couple of women went round the back of the stadium and gained entry to ‘the Kop’ via student accommodation recently built on the stadium car park (Glyndŵr University are the new owners of the Racecourse, or rather a subsidiary called Glyndŵr Innovations Ltd, the ‘delivering business solutions’ arm of what was once an establishment devoted to education). The activists unfurled their flags in a prime position facing the fans and right behind the media and made enough noise to be heard clearly inside the pub at the other side of the ground.
The main demonstration outside the ground wound up at around 6.30pm, and some activists stayed around and engaged with people leaving the ground after the match, which ended in a 5-nil victory for Wales.
When they tear down the walls and treat Palestinians as equals, they can play football in peace.