Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

'We prove that Jews and Arabs can live together'

The Guardian (UK) has an encouraging story of Israeli-Arab unity. Bnei Sakhnin is an Arab football club in Israel with Jewish and Muslim players. They are playing Newcastle United tonight in the Uefa cup.

Twenty-four hours before arriving in England for his team's decisive match against Newcastle United tomorrow night, the chairman of Hapoel Bnei Sakhnin, Mazen Gnaiem, still had no idea which airport his team was about to arrive at. Indeed, he was rather surprised to discover that London had more than one. The sudden upgrade from being an obscure Arab football club in northern Israel to an international team playing in the Uefa cup is still bewildering, and not only for Gnaiem. Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims around the UK are wondering whether Sakhnin deserve their support: some may yet boycott the team which, after all, plays under the Israeli flag, fields Jewish players, employs a Jewish coach and sings the Israeli anthem before its international matches. "As long as in the depth of the heart, a Jewish soul bustles, we haven't lost our 2,000-year-old hope to be a free nation in Zion," is hardly a text many Arabs will identify with. At the same time, Israelis in the UK are unsure whether Sakhnin can be considered a "proper" Israeli club - and British-Jewish football supporters wonder if they could be affiliated in any way to this strange team. And, on top of everything, they play this crucial match on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana. (More)

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