Only former Israeli President Shimon Peres could pull off something like organizing a friendly football (soccer) match between Israeli and Palestinian children just a week after the latest Gaza war.
And only the Palestinian Authority could be so callous as to condemn such a demonstration of peaceful coexistence.
The game organized by Peres wasn’t between just any groups of Israeli and Palestinian kids. The Israelis came from the rocket-battered town of Sderot, and the Palestinians from Hebron, near to where earlier this summer Hamas terrorists abducted and executed three Jewish teens.
The game marked the start of the current year of the “School of Football and Peace,” a campaign by the Peres Center for Peace that brings together dozens of Israeli and Palestinian children for sports and other extracurricular learning activities.
Before blowing the opening whistle, Peres told the children that “football games are not played against one another, but with one another. You Israeli children from the Gaza periphery who have come to play with Palestinian children symbolize the hope for peace. You endured a difficult summer, and today you open a new year that I hope will instead be filled with sport and dialogue.”
Issa Abu Hamid, the coach of the Palestinian children, added, “I’m excited to see you all here after we were prevented from meeting over the previous months. I hope that on this field we can start something new and return to enjoying football together in an atmosphere of friendship.”
Some of the children from Sderot embraced their Palestinian counterparts and were quoted as saying, “We can make peace with the Palestinians.”
Israel’s “peace partners” in the Palestinian Authority, however, didn’t seem to feel the same.
“Any activity of normalization in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime against humanity,” insisted Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of the ruling Fatah faction and head of the Palestinian Supreme Council for Sports and Youth Affairs.
In a post to his Facebook page (which was translated by Palestinian Media Watch), Rajoub said it was official policy to oppose and prevent joint sporting events between Israeli and Palestinian children.
Abd Al-Salam, a member of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, took his criticism to another level, demanding that the government in Ramallah prosecute the coach of the Palestinian children’s team as a “traitor.”
The local Fatah branch in the town from which the Palestinian children came also issued a statement denouncing the friendly game. Read the following while keeping in mind that Fatah is the party of “moderate” Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, a man whom the world insists is a genuine peace partner for Israel:
“[This game] was an individual act, conceived by sick souls that agreed to be humiliated for a handful of money. We urge the residents to supervise their children and distance them from these kinds of activities, which damage our cause.”
A local Fatah spokesman vowed that the party would “settle the account with these reckless people,” meaning the coach and other organizers who had dared to let Palestinian children commit the heinous crime of playing soccer with Israeli Jews.