BDS Own Goal: Footballers and the phantom signatures

Much was made this week of a petition signed by 62 professional footballers, including several English Premier League players, protesting UEFA’s decision to hold next summer’s European under-21 Championships in Israel.

The petition, reportedly initiated by the ex-Tottenham Frederic Kanoute, also featured the former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and Newcastle midfielder Yohann Cabaye.

Or did it?

News emerged today that in fact neither of these players actually added their name to the petition. Drogba took to twitter to deny that he was involved and Yohann Cabaye posted a message to his website stating that he had never agreed to his name being attributed.

Admittedly the campaign to prevent Israel hosting the tournament next summer has been a bit of a damp squib but did the organisers really have to stoop this low? To borrow a football cliché, it’s a real head in the hands moment.

But there’s an even more serious edge to this tale.

How many of the other footballers had their names added to the petition without consent? And how much of the BDS strategy in general relies on inflation, exaggeration and, dare we say, outright falsehood?

Suddenly a petition which appeared to have finally given some exposure to a failing campaign has become a laughing stock, its credibility shot to pieces.

Culture and sport should unite rather than divide. It should form bridges between people so that difficult issues such as the Middle East Peace Process can be tackled in a constructive way.

This sort of petition can only ever be destructive, and even more so when it is full of lies and half-truths like the ones uncovered today.


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