Still Angry Over 1917 Balfour Declaration, Palestinians Bemoan England Advance in FIFA World Cup
An abiding resentment of Britain for its alleged role in supporting the Zionist movement left Palestinians in Gaza bitterly disappointed on Saturday, following England’s 2-0 victory over Sweden in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Prior to the match in Russia, Palestinians sitting by television screens in Gaza’s cafes were interviewed by a reporter for Middle East Online. All of them made clear that their hostility to the England team was based on the belief that the United Kingdom was responsible for the creation of Israel.
“Of course I will support Sweden,” 37-year-old Hisham Ahmed said. “I can’t imagine a Palestinian supporting England, which created the Balfour Agreement (sic), or not supporting the country that stood before the world and recognized our state.”
In the November 1917 Balfour Declaration, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour confirmed the UK’s sympathy for the establishment of a “Jewish national home” in Palestine.
The article noted that “Sweden has long been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians and was the first European Union country to recognize Palestine as a state.” It quoted Ahmed, a Gaza accountant, arguing that “football is not removed from politics.”
“These teams represent their countries and governments and will raise their flags in the stands,” Ahmed said. “How can I support the country that allowed the Jewish state on our land?”
His friend Abdullah al-Shanti agreed.
“Anyone supporting England is supporting Israel itself,” he said. “Britain is the one who created Israel and one of its largest supporters.”
England now faces Croatia in the second semi-final on Wednesday. As next Sunday’s final approaches, Palestinians looking for a team to support might consider that the governments of the four remaining sides – France and Belgium, as well as England and Croatia – have all expressed sympathy for an independent Palestine, but are yet to follow Sweden’s example of formal recognition.
Meanwhile, the official Palestinian soccer authority, the Palestine Football Association (PFA), continues to agitate for the expulsion of Israel from FIFA, the sport’s global association. In June, PFA chief Jibril Rajoub – a convicted terrorist released in a 1985 prisoner exchange – issued brazen threats against Argentina star Lionel Messi that contributed to the cancelation of a pre-World Cup friendly between Israel and Argentina in Jerusalem.