Influence of ‘Arab club owners’ swayed FA decision not to light Wembley up for Israel

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Influence of ‘Arab club owners’ swayed FA decision not to light Wembley up for Israel

Former Celtic player Nir Bitton, who is still searching for missing family members, hits out at the FA for its refusal to light up Wembley in the colours of the Israeli flag.

The Wembley Stadium arch unlit, despite the atrocities in Israel, for a match against Australia.
The Wembley Stadium arch unlit, despite the atrocities in Israel, for a match against Australia.

Israeli international footballers have spoken out against the sporting industry’s failure to recognise the atrocities inflicted against Israeli civilians by terror group Hamas.

Former Celtic player Nir Bitton has said the international community needs to realise that Palestinians need to be free – “but not from Israel, we need to free Palestine from the terrorist organisation that is Hamas.”

Bitton, who played for Celtic for nine years, is still searching for family members – while the cousin of Maccabi Tel Aviv winger Dor Turgeman was killed at the music festival massacre.

Bitton, who now plays for Maccabi Tel Aviv, has spent the week attending the funerals and shivas of victims of the attack, many of them children.

Nir Bitton ( source: Twitter)

Speaking out against the failure to recognise the scale of the violence, which left more than 1,300 Israelis dead – with many more missing or kidnapped by Hamas in Gaza – he said: “Everyone in Israel knows someone who was directly affected by what happened. My wife’s cousin went cycling last Saturday in the Gaza strip border area; since then we have not heard from him.

“Either his body has yet to be identified or he has been taken hostage. My teammate Dor Turgeman lost his cousin Amit Levy, who was murdered at the party in Re’im.

The Wembley arch is lit in the colours of the French flag after terror attacks in Paris

“There are so many of these stories.”

Reacting to criticism of the FA’s refusal to light up Wembley in the colours of the Israeli flag, the midfielder said the issue affected many sporting organisations: “I think they are taking their own side. In football, they have contributors, investors, club owners from Arab countries which in my opinion is a significant factor and has a lot of weight on influencing their decision and the position they adopted.”

Bitton is in touch with Israeli footballer Liel Abada, who plays for Celtic – but is currently injured. “He will come back stronger,” said Bitton, who added: “The war here is not between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but this is a war against a terror organisation which should be publicly condemned by the entire world.”

Bitton, 31, continued: “We are dealing with a terrorist group which rules Gaza by force and fear, terrorising the residents of Gaza and using them as human shields. They launch rockets from their homes, launch rockets from hospitals, from schools from universities and everywhere they possibly can. The store and hide weapons in and under the homes of residents and use Gaza as a shelter for their terrorist group.”

Manor Solomon

Israeli winger Manor Solomon, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur, has used his social platform to share the stories of Israelis affected by the crisis, including names of children and babies kidnapped and taken to Gaza by terrorists.

In a statement in Hebrew to his 250,000 followers, he wrote: “The cruel reality, the inconceivable, left us all hurt, stunned, but stronger and more united than ever.”

The 24-year-old, who is currently injured, added: “We are together and we will win together because we have a secret weapon – we have no other country.”

Meanwhile, British Jewish football fans have called out the FA for not lighting up Wembley’s arch in the colours of the Israeli flag.

Barry Frankfurt, of Jewish Gooners, an official Arsenal Supporters Club, said: “There was an inability for the FA to find a space to memorialise the 1,300 victims of Hamas terror. It’s not about what they will do, they just could not find a space to memorialise them, without caveat. This was the largest pogrom of the Jewish community since the Second World War, and it leaves Jewish football fans feeling like they are not part of the football family.”

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