Shooting Feet: Israel Targets Palestinian Soccer Players

Abby Zimet

One more God-awful chapter in the ongoing God-awful narrative that is Israeli occupation: Israeli forces attacked two teenage Palestinian cousins and soccer players, Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, shooting them repeatedly in the feet and legs - ten bullets into Jawhar, two into Adam - before unleashing attack dogs and finally beating them in what critics call another egregious targeting of Palestinian athletes in a place where "soccer is politics." Israeli officials said the boys, who were heading home, according to differing accounts, from either soccer practice or visiting a friend, were about to throw a bomb; the victims denied the claim to reporters. Doctors says it is likely neither youth will ever play competitive sports again; it's unclear if they will be able to walk. The attack is the latest in what critics charge is a years-long, systematic Israeli campaign against Palestinian soccer players in a bitterly divided land where sports, especially to the beleaguered Palestinians, represent escape, joy, pride and community. In the past, the Israeli campaign prompted (failed) efforts to ease restrictions for athletes and trainers; it has also sparked next week's trip by the head of the Palestinian Football Association to a regional Arab meeting, where he hopes to organize a push to expel Israel from FIFA and the Olympics. There's also a petition. Dave Zirin, The Nation's sports editor, has much more on "what's left of Palestinian soccer": four members of the Palestinian national team killed in their homes by Israeli forces, at least three jailed in Israeli prisons without trial, "real people, with real families, whose lives and deaths are testament to a story that needs to be told."

Jibril al-Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, condemned "the occupation’s insistence on destroying Palestinian sport... If you degrade the national team, you degrade the idea that there could ever be a nation."

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