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November 18, 2021 11:36 am
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Citing Support for Hamas and Workers’ Rights Violations, German Jewish Leader Calls on Top Soccer Club Bayern Munich to Sever Relations With Qatar

avatar by Ben Cohen

Bayern Munich players celebrate with fans following their Nov. 6 victory over SC Freiburg. Photo: Reuters/Sven Hoppe/dpa

The head of the Jewish community in Germany voiced his backing on Thursday for the effort to persuade the country’s leading soccer team, Bayern Munich, to end its sponsorship deal with national airline of Qatar.

In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung news outlet, Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, observed that there were two main criticisms of the Gulf emirate, which is frequently ranked as the world’s richest nation: its support for Palestinian terrorism and its systematic violations of the rights of thousands of migrant laborers drafted to construct stadiums for next year’s FIFA World Cup.

“On the one hand, terrorist organizations like Hamas are supported financially by Qatar, as is Iran, [both of] which are committed to the destruction of Israel,” Schuster said. “On the other hand, according to many reports in the media about the 2022 World Cup, working conditions at the construction sites are questionable, to say the least.”

A proposal to be debated at Bayern Munich’s annual general assembly on Nov. 25 would compel the club to cancel its sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways. It would also rule out any future deals with companies in which Qatar’s royal family are the majority shareholders.

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The sponsor of the motion, Michael Ott, similarly drew attention to Qatari human rights violations, along with the allegations of corruption in sport that have dogged the emirate in recent years, following media exposure of Qatari officials offering bribes to secure the hosting rights to next year’s World Cup.

“Qatar Airways is 100 percent owned by the Emirate of Qatar,” Ott explained in a recent interview. “This country stands for massive human rights violations, and moreover there are serious charges of corruption in sports. Instead of effecting change, FC Bayern is actively helping the Emirate of Qatar to draw attention away from these evils through its sponsorship.”

About 2 million migrant workers from south Asia, Africa and other regions are resident in Qatar, whose labor practices have come under increasing scrutiny during the construction of eight state-of-the-art stadiums where the 2022 matches will be played.

Human rights groups estimate that at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in the emirate in the past decade. Workers have consistently reported crowded living conditions, poor sanitation, lack of food and water and other hardships imposed by Qatar’s “kafala” system of employment, which grants employers near total control over the migrant workforce.

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