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Mr. Gillerman (Israel): ...
Our troubled region has seen small glimmers of promise in that regard, and we are always hopeful that they are signs of the chances of a more peaceful era. For example, last year’s Japanese-Israeli-Palestinian Children’s Friendship Soccer Match, held in Tokyo, hosted 11 Palestinian children and 11 Israeli children in a symbolic week of friendly, athletic activity.
I would also note this year’s success of the Bnei Sakhnin football team, the first Israeli-Arab football team to win the Israeli Cup and, as a result, to represent Israel in the Union of European Football Associations Cup. As the Israel Football Association Chairman has said,
“The coexistence shown here today should be an example to the rest of the world. A team which consists of Jews, Christians, Muslims and foreigners representing an Arab town could act as abridge for peace.”
And as journalist Salem Joubran has said,
“If Jews and Arabs can play together and win a cup, they can also do business together and simply live together.”
Unfortunately, sport can sometimes be abused and made to serve as a sword as much as a shield. Regrettably, some would use the opportunities they present to work in diametric opposition to the goals we hold dear. For example, the Palestinian Authority continues to use sporting events to present terrorists as role models for youth. This past year, a youth sport gathering was named after Marwan Zalum, who was responsible for killing at least seven people, including an infant, and injuring dozens more in Jerusalem. The event was held under the authority of Yasser Arafat and his Ministry of Youth and Sport. Within the framework of a sporting event for young people, the Chairman of the corrupt Palestinian Authority’s Legislative Council praised the terrorist and a film was shown about his life.
But the invidious subversion of sport reaches far beyond our region. For years, racism and anti-Semitism at European football games have been an increasingly disturbing phenomenon. That problem does not seem to have abated. On the contrary, in many football stadiums in Europe, neo-Nazi blocs use games to build contacts and recruit new members. Racist and anti-Semitic songs are employed and code words and signs are used to allude to xenophobic platforms. That is particularly disturbing in the context of the recent rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, as it serves as both a barometer and an aggravating factor of that despicable trend.
It is in that context that Israel commends the work of organizations that are working to combat those nefarious activities. Particular praise should go to Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), which puts a tremendous amount of effort into building grass-roots efforts against racism in football. This week, FARE is engaging in its fifth annual Action Week, and Israel wishes it the heartiest success in its very worthwhile endeavours.
Perhaps the most important example of the capability of sport to reflect the world it comes from, both positively and negatively, is the Olympic Games. As the report states, “sport is about participation, inclusion and citizenship. It brings individuals and communities together, highlighting commonalties and bridging cultural and ethnic divides.” ( A/59/268, para. 7 ) The Olympic Games is the supreme expression of that, and it is in that context that my delegation would like to congratulate Greece on a tremendously successful and peaceful twenty-eighth Olympiad.
Israel is proud of its athletes’ performance at the Olympics and of the feeling of international brotherhood manifested at this year’s Games. Its only regret was the dismaying inability of certain countries, such as Iran, to put aside the irrational politics of hatred and to allow all athletes to compete in the spirit of international harmony and hope for which the Games were intended, instead of forcing them to obey immoral political agendas.
No matter how successful the holding of an Olympiad may be, it is always a time of lingering sadness for Israel. For the Israeli people, the very idea of the Olympics cleaves to the memory of the 1972 Games in Munich, when gunmen from the terrorist group Black September broke into the Olympic village, disguised as athletes, and killed 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and referees, violating the sanctity of the village and of the Olympic Truce. That heinous act of terror was the very antithesis of the Olympic ideal. Instead of avoiding politics and conflict, the terrorists used the games as yet another venue for murder and hatred. It was one of the most atrocious subjugations of sport to a set of morally bankrupt political desires within memory.
We cannot allow that tragedy, which mars the annals of the Games, to be forgotten. Thus, it is very disappointing that the International Olympic Committee has not yet found an appropriate manner to officially observe the memory of the fallen Israeli athletes. If it wants to demonstrate that the concept of the Olympic Truce is not merely a wistful illusion, Israel calls on it to do so without fail.
As the report says, “Sport can cut across barriers that divide societies, making it a powerful tool to support conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts, both symbolically at the global level and practically within communities.” ( ibid., para. 9 ) Israel strongly endorses that proposition and calls on all countries to use the opportunities provided by sport to foster peace and development. Israel pledges to fully support that endeavour.
The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.