Adrian Weir from Unite delivered this speech at the protest against Israel hosting the UEFA under 21 championship.
Good afternoon, comrades and friends.
I bring the solidarity greetings of General Secretary, Len McCluskey, the Executive Council of Unite and our 1.5 million members in Britain and Ireland.
Friends, this is the second time that I’ve been here today.
Earlier, the TUC and ITUC held a lobby about the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar and the likelihood the stadia for the tournament will be built by workers with no labour rights, no trade union rights, often in conditions of servitude – effectively slaves.
Here we are 4 hours later lobbying football again – this time over the award of a prestigious championship to what is effectively an apartheid state.
Has football no moral compass? Has the vast amount of TV money from the likes of Murdoch utterly corrupted football?
For example, in the last season Manchester United alone made £60.8 million in TV revenues. When faced with that sort of money little wonder that any morals are quickly and conveniently forgotten.
Football is taking the place that cricket and rugby union occupied in the dark days of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
From that struggle there is one AAM poster that sticks in my mind and could be used today.
The picture was of a South African policeman, rifle raised, shooting into a township.
The caption read: “if you could see their other national sport you’d be less keen to see their rugby”.
Change rugby to football and we would be right up to date.
Friends, on behalf of Unite I welcome Mahmoud Sarsak here today.
Mahmoud and other colleagues in the Palestine national football team have been through hell – 3 years in jail and only released after an 86 day hunger strike.
Although I mentioned Manchester United in less than flattering terms earlier we must pay tribute to former United player Eric Cantona and other stars like Fredric Kanoute in lending their support to the campaign to get the Palestinian players released.
It’s not just the jailing of the players that cause such outrage – the destruction of Palestinian soccer’s infrastructure should also be condemned.
The bombing of the national stadium in November 2012 is a blow against the cultural independence and identity of the Palestinian nation.
The jailings and the bombings are gross violations of international law – 4th Geneva Convention – and the norms of international behaviour and should be condemned as such not rewarded with hosting a prestigious international sporting event.
We support a sporting and cultural boycott of Israel and salute Prof Stephen Hawking and his recent refusal to attend an academic conference there.
In the end it was the economic unsustainability of the apartheid system that brought the settlers to the negotiating table but the cultural and sporting isolation of South Africa went a long way to undermining the morale of the Afrikaner elite.
Our task now if to keep up the pressure, to support the Palestinian football players, and to further extend a break in sporting and cultural ties with the apartheid state in the Middle East.
So today we call for the removal of the U 21 championship from Israel – there is no place for apartheid in international sport.