Saturday, July 29, 2017

Palestinian Sports in Diaspora 1967 - 1993

Issam Khalidi

    As a result of the Nakba, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes, many of whom settled in refugee camps in neighboring states, 530 villages have been destroyed, and 15,000 have been killed in series of mass atrocities including more than 70 massacres. The Nakba (catastrophe of 1948) was an almost a fatal blow for the Palestinian sports, which caused the destruction of sports infrastructure and the dispersion of cadre and athletes. However, Palestinian sports had the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, this resilience was due to the previous experience - prior to 1948 - and the severity of the dispersion and dispossession. This resiliency was not limited to sports but included other cultural and social aspects.
     The phenomena of dispersion of Palestinian sports was represented in different forms: First: the transfer of the center of gravity of the Palestinian sports movement from Gaza to Jordan (1948 – 1967) to Lebanon, Tunisia, Gaza and ended in Ramallah. Second: the dispersion of the headquarters of athletic federations in Beirut, Damascus, Kuwait and Baghdad. Third: dispersion of the athletes. The Palestinian national teams were represented by players from different Shitat (diaspora) countries.
   The post-1948 experiences of Palestinian communities in the Arab world are as varied as the countries in which they have developed.  Economic, social, and political conditions of the host states as well as these states’ relation with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have all had an impact upon resident Palestinian communities.[1]Living conditions in the refugee camps (slum-like urban area, poverty, discrimination in the labor market) had their impacts on the growth of Sports. Although Palestinian refugee camp dwellers by and large enjoy adequate health and education services, they are disfavored and overlooked in the socioeconomic plans of the host country. While differences between camp dwellers and urban refugees (off-camp dwellers) in Syria and to a lesser extent in Jordan are relatively minimal, the gap between camp and off-camp dwellers in Lebanon and in the occupied Palestinian territories is enormous. This can be explained by the fact that the camps in Jordan and Syria constitute, by and large, open spaces, regulate by the host state, while in Lebanon they are set in closed space.[2]
   International agencies like UNRWA had been set up to help with the specific problem of Palestinian refugees in their main places of exile, although the main goal has always been survival for Palestinians just short of political independence; UNRWA policy has been in harmony with the annual UN General Assembly resolution calling upon Israel to take back the refugees, but the call has been issued on more or less neutral humanitarian grounds, again just short of acknowledgement that the Palestinians and the Israelis are opposed to each other on national, political grounds.[3] UNRWA established centers for social services which later adopted sports activities and contributed to the growth of sports in the refugees camps in Lebanon and Jordan.
  Sport is a physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.[4] Behind its physical potential stands magnificent educational, ethical and national-ideological potential. It engages youth physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially. By this, the youth are able to strengthen their basic capabilities, create connection between individuals and teach core values life skills. Through this, sport becomes instrumental and a valuable tool in initiating social development and improving cohesion. Sports was a way to overcome the living conditions in the camps. Through sports the community resisted against the unproductive use of leisure time and moral deviation; it had an importance in the humanization and the restoration of values lost to the dehumanizing living conditions of the slum-like camps.
  From the late sixties, then, Palestinians encountered the triple problem raised by their dispersion: their aspiration to self-determination, absence of a secure and possible territorial base, and the need to set up a Palestinian authority which if possible would not get involved in struggles with the local authority. [5]
   The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) [Munazzamat at-Taḥrīr al-Filasṭīniyya] was created in May 1964.  It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestine people ”.  Despite that, the PLO created, and founded, a number of organizations which fulfilled the demands of the Palestinian people.  However, in its resolutions, nothing was found mentioning sports or physical education, except what was mentioned in the session of the National Council in 1968 when a section called “popular organization” [al-Tanzim al-Sha’bi] was established aimed to organize social and cultural affairs.[6]
   Political conditions in these countries where Palestinian refugees lived, and the relations between the regimes, and the PLO, had their impacts on sports and football.  In 1968, a decision was made by the PLO to form the Palestine Supreme Council for Youth Care; the PLO member Ibrahim Sukkar signed this decree.  Farook al-Qadoomi (member of the executive committee of PLO) assigned Ibrahim al-Zard for secretary of the committee.  In 1969, few branch committees were established in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
  After the Ailul (September) War of 1970 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Jordanian Armed Forces, the headquarters of this committee was moved from Jordan to Lebanon.  A new supreme council was formed from qualified Palestinian athletic leaders in Lebanon.  The council started to remove the impacts of the war; new clubs were founded in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Athletic and scouts activities started to rise.
   The first conference of the Supreme Council of Youth Care SCYC was held in Beirut in Suq al-Gharb in 1974. At this conference the name (SCYC) had been changed into Supreme Council for Youth and Sports SCYS. The second conference was held in 1978. [7] No other conferences were held after that.
   The Supreme Council participated in youth conferences in Arab countries which emerged from the Arab League.  These conferences provided help for the Supreme Council to seek membership in different international athletic organizations.  In 1969, it participated in the first conference of Arab ministers of sport and youth which was held in Cairo.  The Palestinian delegation got recommendations that were directed to support the Palestinian youth in the diaspora.  The conference offered big support to the Palestinian teams for developing their activities in all Arabic countries.  The conference also agreed to offer opportunities to the Palestinian youth to represent themselves in all athletic occasions. [8]
    The structure of Palestinian sports took hierarchical shape; on the top of the list was the Supreme Council, followed by the Conference, Executive Office, Central Committee, Olympic Committee, sport associations (including the football association), Scouts Organization, Public Commission, and the Committee of Social Activities and Youth Centers. The sports associations were managed by the club leaders from one side, and by the branch associations (except the branch council) in Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates on the other.  Some of these associations were established in the 1960s in Gaza, such as table tennis and basketball, which were recognized internationally in mid-sixties.[9]

Branch Councils
   In 1969, branch council committees for youth were established in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Syria, and Lebanon.  The decision to establish these committees came from the President of the Popular Organization [Tanzim Sha’bi] at that time, which was affiliated to the offices of PLO in those countries.  As soon as they were established, these committees started to form athletic teams which could participate in different tournaments.  Despite the lack of possibilities, these committees would be able to achieve significant progress in sports in these countries.[10]
   The period 1969 – 1970 is considered to be the beginning stage of the sport movement in the Diaspora.  This period witnessed the confirmation of Arab support to the Palestinian youth and athletes.  It was characterized with the intensive communications between the Supreme Council, branch councils, and official athletic departments in Arabic countries.
   The civil war in Jordan in 1970 effected the growth of sports.  Many youth moved to Jordan to take part in the fight there.[11]  In 1971, after moving the supreme council to Lebanon, statutes were endorsed; they included all the articles which stipulated the performance of the branch committee in Arab countries.  The statutes emphasized that the Branch Council is the only body responsible for all spheres of youth activities in the country where it exists.  The responsibilities and duties of the branch councils did not differ from the Central Council, which could be summarized in performing the policy and plans of the Supreme Council, forming the athletic and scouts teams, selecting qualified players for representing Palestine in Arab and international tournaments, supervision of the preparation of the teams in various kinds of sports (especially the selected teams), and setting up matches and scout meetings with all similar teams in the country where they existed.
   The branch councils worked as a link between the Supreme Council of Youth and all the institutions and committees of the country where those branch councils existed.  Branch councils were requested to provide monthly reports about their activities to the executive office.  The statutes of SCYS stated that branch councils were the only committees that are responsible for all aspects of youth activities in the country where they existed.
   In 1973, Palestinian youth took part in the October War in South Lebanon.  In the first conference, which was held in 1974, statutes were endorsed.  They stipulated that electing branch councils must be only through the conference.  In addition, the statutes stated that electing Presidents, treasurer, and media spokesman of the branch council must be accomplished in the first meeting of the branch council.  In this conference, the name of the Supreme Council for Youth Care was changed to the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports al-Majlis al-A’la lil-Shabab wal-Riyada SCYS.  In addition, in this meeting, more authorities and assignments were given to branch councils that could help in improving their performance.  In order to fight centralism, which was caused by the disbursement of the Palestinians in the Diaspora, the branch committees were in need of greater independence and self-management.  The centralism of the sport movement and the violent political conditions, especially in Lebanon, were a reason for the lack of the ability of Supreme Council to organize, and manage, all sport activities in the Diaspora.[12]
   The war in Lebanon had negative impact on sports not only in Lebanon; it affected all Palestinian youth activities in other countries.  In 1976, the location of the supreme council moved to Damascus because of the civil war in Lebanon.  The Palestinian National Council held its thirteenth session; it issued decisions to unite all Palestinian youth organizations and committees and not to offer any opportunity to anyone trying to split the Palestinian athletic arena.  The second conference of the SCYS was postponed until July 1978, when 29 members attended, and 27 were absent.  It endorsed some amendments to the statutes, in order to improve the process of sport movement.  Later, it moved again to Lebanon.  In a meeting held in May 1979, the executive office continued to urge the branches to comply with the regulations of the statutes, and to spend more time attempting to achieve progress. [13]
   In Jordan, the branch council did not last long; it was dissolved after the September War.  This council united the Palestinian youth in Jordan and formed teams for all kinds of sports.  It also conducted matches in football with Jordanian teams.
Branch Council in Lebanon
   The Branch Council in Lebanon was founded in 1970.  Ibrahim al-Balo’us was elected as the President. The council supervised sports activities in the refugee camps, where the number of clubs reached 120.  These clubs made big contribution in the Arab and international arena in preparing athletes in different kinds of sports.[14]
   The Lebanese branch did its best to explain about the tasks and targets of the Supreme Council to the Lebanese administrators and club leaders. This branch also could communicate with the Soviet Embassy at that time, to gain scholarships for coaches and students studying in physical education institutes.  During that time, there were plenty of football matches between the Palestinian club teams in Lebanon and their counterparts in Syria.  Also, there were matches on the level of selected teams from Palestinians in both Lebanon and Syria.

Branch Council in Iraq
   The Branch Committee of Iraq was founded in 1972; it was composed of a football team, as well as teams from several other sports.  The football team participated in Arab tournaments and youth festivities.  On the local arena, the branch council organized few tournaments for Palestinian teams in Iraq in which eleven teams took part; they represented different areas where Palestinians lived.  These matches were under the auspices of the Ba’ath party and the governors of these regions.
   The Iraqi government also facilitated the functions of the Palestinian branch council.  The government provided headquarters to the Palestinian branch council. The small number of Palestinians, which did not exceed twenty thousand, was a reason that the branch could strengthen and widen its activities.  The council did not hold any elections since its establishment; all its board committee members were assigned by executive office.
   In 1972, the Palestine Sport Club in Baghdad was founded.  It was stipulated that this club had to function through the headquarters of the PLO in Baghdad; however, this club could not continue to exist.  In May 1972, the Ministry of Youth in Iraq issued a decree requesting that the headquarters of the Iraqi Umma Club in Baghdad be given to the Palestine Sport Club.  It also requested that this Palestinian club had to be treated equally with the Iraqi clubs.
   The club started to gather the Palestinian athletes in its new headquarters in order to form football, Judo, and Karate teams.  In 1987, the club was classified in the fourth league; however, a decision was made by Oday Saddam Hussein to move this club to the second league.  The club had been receiving financial support from the Iraqi government, like any other Iraqi club.  In 1992, its name was changed to Haifa Sport Club.[15]

Branch Council in Kuwait
   The situation of the branch council in Kuwait was different because of the high population of the Palestinian community, which reached three hundred thousand.  Palestinians had their schools, under the supervision of the representative bureau of the PLO.  These schools had their competencies and staff that provided a base for the wide athletic movement of the Palestinian community.  The government did not offer any headquarters; the council functioned through the PLO office.  The Kuwaiti clubs allowed the Palestinian athletes to practice on the Kuwaiti fields according to special conditions.  The Kuwaiti government also provided normal conditions for the Palestinians’ Branch Council to found clubs and associations.  These normal conditions were behind the participation of Palestinian athletes in various Arab tournaments.
   Sport in Kuwait was launched from schools which were affiliated with the PLO.  These schools were managed by the PLO.  It is well known that after 1948, there were many school teachers among the Palestinian immigrants.  The first Palestinian clubs in Kuwait were Gaza Sport Club, Al-Awda [The Return], and Haifa Sport Club.
   Later, as conditions of the Palestinian clubs developed, the number of clubs increased, eventually reaching seven: Al-Awda, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Gaza, Karama, and Jalil [Galilee].  These clubs made large contributions in developing sports in Kuwait.  They also contributed to the successful performance of the branch council and the branch associations which existed in Kuwait during that time.
   In 1981, the number of Palestinian clubs reached thirteen.  Six new clubs were founded: Jaffa, Al-Qastal, Marqaz [Center] al-Aqsa, Markaz Khan Yunis, Markaz al-Lid, and Nadi BirSabi’.  In 1981-1982 Gaza Sport Club won the tournament among the Palestinian clubs.

Syria Branch
   In Syria, the Palestine Sports Committee was formed in September 1969; it was headed by Yunis Yunis, JawadBaidas, Muoin Naqib, I’idYounis Jamal, Mohamad Suleiman Khalil, Shahira Khattab and Ahmad Beirumi (Members).  In 1974, the Palestine Sports Association was established and was headed by Mo’in Naqib and Nabil Murad (Vice President). It was seeking to be an alternative to the branch council.  Due to the inactive condition in which the Syrian branch council was currently suffering, in the middle of the 1970s, the Supreme Council of Youth and Sport was re-established.[16]It was headed by Muhamad Khalil, with Muhamad Isma’il, Mithqal Salih, and Salim Hadiri as members.
   Palestinian sport in Syria was different than in other regions because Palestinians were divided into the pro-Syrian Ba’ath party and pro-PLO.  Conflicts appeared among them, especially after 1976’s Tal-Azza’tar’s confrontation in Lebanon.  It is well established that there was a rivalry between athletic institutions affiliated with the Syrian government and those affiliated with the PLO; both wanted to prove themselves on the scene.  This rivalry exacerbated each political dispute and clash.  The Syrian branch also suffered from the split in the Fatah movement because many athletes were among the two sides.  At the same time, this branch had financial troubles for unknown reasons.
   The Palestine Sport Federation (PSF) in Syria sought to be an alternative to the branch council.  Unfortunately, there is only a scarce amount of information about Palestinian sports in Syria.  The branch council in Syria was not active; documents show that it was completely frozen.  Despite the obstacles, the Syrian branch could preserve relations and activities through individual communications only.  There was difficulty in coordination between the branch council, PSA, and Revolution Youth Union [Ittihad Shabibat al-Thawra], which was affiliated to the Ba’ath party.
   The supreme council held some tournaments in the 1979-1978 in football, basketball, handball, and table tennis. In 1980, the Board Committee of the branch council was reformed and immediately started to communicate with young men.  After a few meetings, young male athletes, as well as others interested in sport activities, showed a great desire to work through the branch council and under the umbrella of the PLO.  These meetings helped in founding and registering twelve clubs: Hittin in the Sebina refugee camp in Damascus, Ein Jalout in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Bisan in the Yarmouk refugee camp, Karama in the Jarmana Refugee Camp in Damascus, Yafa in Saida Zeinab in Damascus, Bi’r Sabei’ in the Khan Sheikh Refugee Camp in Damascus, Akko in the Lataqia Refugee Camp, Deir Yasin in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp, Ariha [Jericho] in the Hamah Refugee Camp, Haifa in the Yarmouk Refugee Camp (was one of the most distinguished amongst the other clubs), and Safad in the A’edin [Return] Refugee Camp in Hums.  These clubs took part in a numerous tournaments held by sport associations, however, Palestinian sports in Syria did not witness noticeable growth.
   In countries such as United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, there were no big communities and headquarters for the two branch councils which were dependent on the offices of the PLO in these two countries.  The Supreme Council issued a memo freezing the activities. [17]

The Qatar Branch
   Even though the Qatar branch council was founded in 1969, it did provide to the national team good players.  There are two reasons behind this phenomenon.  First, the Qatar branch council had no headquarters.  Second, there was a lack of ability in establishing clubs.  However, this branch could maintain good relations with the executive office and could organize some athletic, social, and cultural activities.
   It is clear that many branches suffered administrative problems because of the “external and internal influences,” which led the executive office to reform the administration of the Iraqi, Qatari, and Libyan branch councils.  Also, it reformed the Syria branch and formed precedence for the Kuwaiti branch council.  At one of the meetings of the Central Committee of the council in July 1981, it was mentioned that some branch councils had no clubs, and some did not inform the executive office about their matters and activities.  The meeting requested for the branch committees to develop annual plans that fit their capabilities.  It also asked them to be fully committed to the laws and statutes of the branch council.
   In Egypt, the branch council worked as a link between the sport associations in Egypt and the Palestinian Supreme Council of Youth and Sport. It was also clear that the Supreme Council suffered a recession.  Sport activities went according to recommendations issued by the President and his Secretary, or through meetings by the members of the executive office in Tunisia. Few organizations were under the supervision of the Supreme Council, such as the following: the Olympic Committee, sports associations, scouts’ organizations, the Committee of Social Activities, and youth centers.  It has to be mentioned that a few associations, such as table tennis and basketball, have been internationally recognized since the 1960’s, while the football association was rejected by FIFA in 1965.
  On June 6 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon. The PLO was forced to leave Beirut. Later, on 16 September 1982, Israeli-backed Christian militias entered two refugee camps in Beirut and massacred many hundreds of Palestinians over a period of three days. An estimated 700-800 Palestinian civilians were massacred in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. The world reacted with shock and condemnation.[18]Some sports clubs and youth service centers were destroyed by Israeli shelling. With the Palestinian leadership gone, sports infrastructure has been destabilized. After 1982, with the exception of a few organizations such as the Palestine Red Crescent society, almost all PLO-created organizations collapsed and, as a result, the Palestinian refugees residing in the camps had only UNRWA to cater to their needs. [19]

Palestine Football Association
   In 1969, a nationally selected team was formed in Lebanon.  It coincided with the start of the Supreme Committee in Lebanon.  Many good players have been gathered from different refugee camps and clubs.  Among them were: Subhi Abu Farwa, Salim Halawani, Mahmod  Dawirji, Said Bishawi (goalkeeper), Yasin Abu Aida, Husein Qasim, Ibrahim Karmid, Jamal, Khatib, Omar Sheikh Taha, Ahmad Fustoq, Daoud Mantufe, Niqola Mantofe, Hani Taeh, Jamil Abbas, Munir al-Toski, Ahmad al-Haj, Issa Jamal, Bashir Tarkin, Muhamed Janudi, JadTaeh, Munir Nassar, and Ibrahim al-Hindi.  This selected team was represented mostly by players from the Lebanon branch of Supreme Council, however, when this team played against Arab teams, it included Palestinian players from Syria, Jordan, Libya, and Egypt.
   As was mentioned earlier, after the transfer of the Supreme Committee headquarters from Jordan to Lebanon, the executive committee started to re-establish sport associations.  Palestine Football Association was re-established in 1971. [20]   The Palestine Football Association developed new rules which stipulated the admission of players in Palestinian clubs exclusively.  This resulted in alienating a few qualified players who were playing for first league Lebanese clubs from the Palestinian national team.  Most of the formations of the national team were from the Palestinian clubs members of the football association.  Also, the selection of the national team was subjected to favoritism; the administrators selected players who were members of the clubs that they ran.
   After the move of the Palestinian militias to Tunis in 1982, the headquarters of PFA moved to the Tunisian capital Tunis.  [21]
   It was clear that the majority of the players in the national flagship team were from Lebanon. It was not hard for the Supreme Council to gather the players.  Most of them were playing in the Lebanese club teams; many of them were prominent and they brought victories to their clubs.  Some of them could help in moving their teams from the third league to the second, even to the first league.  No wonder one of the Lebanese teams was called “the Palestinian team,” it included a big number of Palestinian players.  Of course, that was before issuing a law that prohibited the participation of more than three “foreign” players in any Lebanese club.
   In Lebanon, the Palestinian selected team was practicing football on the municipal field in Beirut, at Beirut Stadium.  Due to the scarcity of fields, training went according to the time schedule of the Lebanese teams.  Any time the selected team had a match, the Palestinian administrators had to apply for permission to use the fields.
Other federations were founded in 1970s, and later became members of Pan Arab, Asian and international federations.

The participation of the National Flagship Team
The national team had many friendly and official matches in Lebanon and Arab countries.  This selected team included Palestinian players from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, and Egypt.  The majority of players were from Lebanon.
   In January 1970, the national team played against Shabibeh Mazra’a on the field of Habib Abi Shahla; the selected team was defeated 2:1. It also matched with the Syrian Textile team and lost 2:4.
   In March 1970, the national team visited Qatar, where it had three matches.  The first match was with the Qatari national team, where it lost 1:4.  The second match was with selected Qatari clubs, it lost 3:0.  The third match was with the Lebanese team of Nijma Club; the Palestinian selected team won 1:0.  The team included players from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
   In March 1970, the selected team in Lebanon met with its counterpart in Syria, winning in Tripoli’s stadium 2:1.   In May 1970, the selected team in Lebanon met with Lebanese Nijmeh Club in a friendly match, which was attended by the Lebanese media minister who offered the winner a silver club.  The match also was attended by Shafiq al- Hout, the head of the PLO office in Lebanon.  The match ended with tie 2:2.  The two goals for the Palestinian team were by George Mantoufe.
   The National team played with the Tripoli Athletic Team, and won 2:1.  It also met with the Homentmen Armenian club.  The national Palestinian team was represented by Said Bishawi (goalkeeper) who played for al-Ansar Club, Ibrahim Karmid (al-Ansar Club), Samir Nassar (al-Nijma Club), Ahmad Fustok (al-Ansar Club), Hani Taeh (Safa’ Club), Yasin Abu Aida (Safa’ Club), Omar Sheikh Taha (Racing Club), Seif Muslimi (Palestinian from Syria), and Ali Ajloni (from Syria).
   In 1971, Palestine, represented by players from Lebanon and Syria, took part in the celebration of the first tournament of the Evacuation Day in Syria (25th anniversary).[22] The tournament was initiated by Muhamed Rabah, Minister of Internal Affairs (he represented the President Nur Din al-Atasi).  Few Arab teams took part.  The matches were held in Damascus, Aleppo, and Lataqia.  The Palestinian delegation was made up of Ely Kobli (head of the delegation), Khalid E’Jawi (Secretary), Farouk Dajani (Administrator), and George Murad (Coach).  The players were Omar Taha, Daoud Mantoufe, Jamal Khatib, Yasin Abu Aida, Ibrahim Karmid, Ahmad Fustok, Munir al-Toski, George Mantoufe, Jad Abdel Fattah, Hani Abdel Fattah, Husein Qasim, Niqola Mantoufe, Issa al-Jammal, Ahmad al-Hajj, Bashir al-Turk, and Ibrahim al-Hindi.  The national team played in the first group; it was defeated by the Lebanese team 3:2.  Palestine also lost against Libya and Sudan 4:2.
   In March 1971, the nationally selected team met with the prominent al-Ahli Club in the Ahli stadium in Cairo and lost 1:2.  Some of the Palestinian players who played in Egypt, such as Ibrahim Abu Gheda, Husam al-Samari, and Marwan Kanafani (played with al-Ahli), took part in this match. 
   In 1972, friendly matches were set between Palestine and Algeria (0-2), and Tunisia (2-6). In 1973, Palestine competed against Tunisia, losing 2-6.  In 1976, Palestine took part in the Pan Arab Cup in Syria, it played against Morocco (0-3), Saudi Arabia (1-3), Syria (0-2), South Yemen (0-0), Jordan (2-1), and Mauritania (1-0).  Palestine also took part in the Arab cup in 1992, in Syria; it played against Syria (0-0), and Saudi Arabia (1-2).

The team to France
   According to the signed protocol between the Higher Council and the French Workers Federation, the federation invited the national Palestinian team for a competition between them and a few French teams.  The PFA could not select a team, so it organized a match between the teams in Lebanon and in Syria.  It decided to select 34 players, half from each team, for the training camp. The President at that time was Omar Husein Ali, AsadAlama (Coach), Farouk al-Tahhan (Member), Abdel Munem Na’ma (Member), and Tawfiq Mansour (Member).
   The expulsion of the Palestinian leadership, and militants in general, from Lebanon, and the removal of the Supreme Council and sport associations to Tunis in particular, stumbled the progress of the sport movement, and had its impact on club teams and activities.  However, these clubs could continue the procession.  In 1986, a new nationally selected team was formed, headed by football veteran Khalid Hammad.  At that time, a friendly match with Nijma Sport Club was held; it was a new starting point for this team after the evacuation of Palestinian resistance from Lebanon.  In March 1989, this team played against Tadamun Club [solidarity] and won 2-1.  They also played against Ansar [supporters] club and won 3-2.
   In 1992, a national team was formed to take part in the tournament (Palestine Football Cup) in Sudan.  This team’s level was below the required level.  Fortunately, the tournament was postponed to an indefinite time.

Palestine Football Cup
   The Palestine Football Cup is a big tournament for Arab national teams and takes place every two years.  It was held for the first time in Iraq in 1971, where it was won by Egypt.  Iraq came in second place after losing 3-1 to Egypt, and Syria came in third place.  In 1973, Libya organized the second Palestine Football Cup.  Tunisia was the winning country with the best Arab team.  The Tunisian team beat the Syrians by 4-0 in the final in Tripoli, with Algeria coming in third.
   In 1975, the tournament took place in Tunisia with the participation of 10 teams from 22 Arab countries as follows: Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen DPR and organizers, and Tunisia.  For the second time in the tournaments, Egypt won the Palestine Football Cup with a narrow victory (1-0) over Iraq in the final.  This tournament took place from 19 to 28 December 1975 in Tunisia under the supervision of the UAFA (Union Arab Football Association) for the first time.
   The teams were divided into four qualifying groups, whose winners played the semi-finals.  The winners then competed for the final, and the losers played the third place match.  Morocco, Mauritania, and Somalia withdrew at the last moment.

Other Sports
   In 1970's and 1980's number of federations were established. The majority joined the Arab, Asian and International federations. Palestinian athletes to part in Pan Arab Games, Afro-Asian Games, the Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO), as well as other international competitions.
   In 1972, Palestine Weightlifting Federation (PWLF) was established.  In 1974, it became a member of the Arab Federation of Weight lifting AWLF. In 1979 it joined the International Weightlifting Federation, and the Asian Federation in 1982. Since 1975, it took part in Pan Arab Games in Egypt, Tunis, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Algeria and Morocco. Since 1982 it participated in international competitions in Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Germany, Egypt, Tunis, Algeria and Iraq. PWLF took part as a mediator between the Egyptian Federation and the IWLF in Budapest Hungary in 1993. Few Palestinians became referees and administrators in this sports. As example, Azmi al-Hajjar became an international referee in 1984. Later, he was selected as counselor to the AWF in December 1993. Muhammad Said Hamdan was selected as a member of AWF in April 1993 and Jihad al-Khadra was elected to the technical committee of AWF in April 1993.[23]
    In early 1974, the Palestine Wrestling Federation PWF was founded, it joined the Arab WF in 1974, the International WF in 1980, and in 1982  the Asian WF. This federation was chaired by Muhammad al-Bayari 1978 – 1980. It was based in Beirut. Due to the civil war in Lebanon it  moved to Baghdad where it was chaired by Farid As-Sayyed.
   The Palestine Tennis  Federation included golf along with table tennis and squash. Table Tennis Federation was established in 1960, it was admitted to the International Table Tennis Federation in 1964.  In 1989, SCYS - Lebanon branch - assigned Khalid Ejjawi - activist and author - to form a federation for golf. He became its president in 1991. Squash was included in the Federation of "Racket" Madrab which also include tennis, table tennis and golf. Muhamed Abu Lughud headed this federation. [24] In 1984 the Palestinian Squash Federation was established, its headquarters was in Kuwait.[25]
  The first Arab tournament in golf was held in Beirut in 1975. It was organized by the Lebanese Golf Association which was headed by Salim Ali Salim - the President of the Arab Golf Association and a former chairman of the Middle East Airlines MEA. Some Palestinian golfers working at the Lebanese Golf Club took part as representatives of Palestine in this tournament. In order to achieve good results at the Arab level, Salim supported them financially, and gave them the opportunity to develop and improve their skills at this club. [26]Palestine took part in the third Pan Arab Golf Tournament in Cairo in 1977. It was represented by Muhamed Ahmed Ali. It also took part in the fourth (1979) and the ninth PAGT in Dubai where Farouq Tahhan and Salim Melhim represented Palestine. Also, Palestinian golfers took part in the tenth PAGT in 1989, the eleventh in Alexandria in 1990, and the 14th in Cairo in 1993. [27]  Few Palestinian practiced golf in the diaspora, among them Dr. Bashar Khadir, a political science professor at Leuven University in Belgium. He became a golf champion in this country.  [28]
  Palestine Chess Federation was established in 1981. In the same year it became an observer member in the Arab Chess Federation.In 1985, it became affiliated with the Asian CF. The headquarters of PCF was in Beirut, it was headed by Muhamed Zo'rub.
   A number of Palestinian chess players from Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, UAE and USA represented Palestine and achieved good results in Pan Arab and International competitions. Palestine took part in the Chess Olympiad in Greece in 1984 where 88 countries took part. Palestine got twelve points. It also took part in the Chess Olympiad in Dubai. The delegation included Ala' Musa (Lebanon), Hanna Bouja (Honduras), Riyadh Abu Shamala and Nazih Qasim (Kuwait). The Palestinian team came in the eighth place among 18 competing teams. Palestine also took part in the Pan Arab Tournament in 1989 and 1993 where women also took part. But the best result achieved by the Palestinian team was at World Cup for Youth under-20 in 1987 in the Philippines. In 1992 Palestine took part in Chess Olympiad in the Philippines, Ala’ Musa got the highest result after the Russian Garri Kasparov and the British Michael Adams. Palestine got the bronze medal, and Ala' Musa won the title "master international". [29] This was the best result made by a Palestinian chess champion throughout Palestinian history.

Joining FIFA
   As it was mentioned, the PFA had three attempts to join FIFA, but its applications were rejected.  In 1978, PFA once again submitted its application to FIFA.  The application was attached with all requirements, such as the PFA statutes. The PFA did not succeed in gaining the membership.  However, in 1979, PFA made another attempt, but its application was again hobbled by different obstacles, such as the refusal of the affiliation of the Palestine Olympic Committee with the IOC.  PFA continued its communication with the Arab Football Association (AFA), established in 1974 (Palestine joined AFA in 1974), which offered enormous support for the affiliation of PFA in FIFA.  In order to fulfill FIFA’s requirements, one of the Arab countries agreed to have the headquarters of PFA on its land in order to gain legal consent, and to have its own field where it could manage tournaments.  In 1989, PFA was able to get permission from the Iraqi Football Association, allowing it to have its headquarters in Baghdad. In addition, PFA started to hold its own tournament, on its own field, in this city.  PFA asked for support from the AFA to request from FIFA the affiliation of PFA.  However, it failed another time.  But, the PFA did not lose hope. In 1993, it applied again, depending on the new political conditions (ratification of the Oslo Agreement) and on the admission of the Palestine Olympic Committee in the IOC as observer.  Again, FIFA refused the application.

Palestine Olympic Committee
   The Palestine Olympic Committee POC was established in 1974, during the meeting of the Supreme Committee of Youth and Sports.  In 1976, the statutes of this committee were endorsed.  The POC was not affiliated to the Supreme Council, but it was directly under the supervision of the Executive Office of Youth and Sport, and was run by its members. In order to gain recognition from the IOC, the POC began coordinating with the Arab Association, formed in 1976.  POC was accepted as a member in the Arab Association.  Ahmad Qudwa, who was the President of the Supreme Council, became the President of the POC.
   It is clear that the statutes and the basic law of the POC was formed and designed especially to facilitate the acceptance of the application to join the International Olympic Committee IOC.  The first time the Palestine Olympic Committee (POC) applied to join the IOC was in 1979.   The main obstacle before the POC was the claim by IOC that the POC does not represent a regional area that is internationally recognized.  That was also the reason behind the rejection of the Palestine Football Association.  The IOC did not take into consideration the conditions in which the Palestinians live, such as the Diaspora (Shatat), and the inability of all Palestinians to live on their homeland - Palestine. The members of IOC ‘relied’ on laws which denounced the Palestinian rights; they were also subject to political pressures from different sides.
   In 1980, during the Olympic Games in Moscow, Palestine applied for membership in the IOC, however, the Palestinian delegates who took part in these games decided to postpone the application because they were advised by the Asian OC to do so, for unknown reasons.
   In 1982, the Olympic committee was reformed.  The announcement of this reformation was distributed to all Arab and international Olympic committees.  The headquarters of the POC was located in Syria, and then moved to Tunis.  Despite the new conditions, the POC in 1984 continued to apply to join the IOC (the year that the Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles).
   Later, the presidents of the Palestine sport associations and members of the international associations were invited to attend the meeting of the General Assembly of Sport Associations.  The members of the Palestinian delegation could not obtain the visas to enter the United States, though they were invited officially by the international federations.  The President of the Asian Olympic Committee helped in convincing the committee, which had organized the meeting, as well as the American Embassy in Kuwait, to give visas to the delegation to enter the United States.  Once they arrived in the United States, the delegation began to move in different directions; it had a few interviews with the media and met with other delegations that took part in these games.
   Unfortunately, despite all these efforts, the POC could not join the IOC.  However, during the Olympic Games in Seoul, it was accepted as a member in the Asian Olympic Committee (which was a great victory).  Baghdad hosted the location of the new headquarters of POC; they were located in the Palestine Sport Club.
   The Palestinians strived continuously to join the IOC; documents show that there were a lot of letters sent by the POC to the IOC to accelerate this process.  All attempts were not in vain.  In 1989, the POC took another direction in achieving this goal.  In order to get solidarity from international federations, it contacted the teams of the French Sport Workers Federation and the Italian Association for Popular Sports.  The Palestinian national team met with these two teams, in these two countries.  The Italian Association’s President announced that a few popular Italian athletes signed a petition demanding the approval of the membership of POC in the IOC, especially after the Declaration of an Independent Palestinian state in Algeria.  However, these efforts did not succeed.  In 1990, the POC received an invitation to take part in the Asian Olympic Games in China.  Palestine was represented by Ahmad al-Qudwa, Rabi’ Turk, and Rafic Abdel Sayyed.  In 1993, Palestine was granted temporary recognition by the IOC.  This gave Palestine the opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games in Atlanta in the United States; it was the start of their entry into the international arena.

  Throughout decades sports reflected the Palestinian reality; it portrayed this reality with all its details throughout different historical stages. Sports was used throughout many stages to mobilize support for the Palestinian national issue. The participation of Palestine in the Pan Arab and international sports events managed to preserve Palestinian identity and prove the existence of the Palestinian people and unite them.  Every success in sports the Palestinians achieved was a product of continuing struggle within and without the homeland. It was also  a product of the cohesion of Palestinian people in the diaspora -- athletes, leadership and officials. 
The struggle to gain a membership in  the International Olympic Committee IOC and International Football Association FIFA was another step that paved the way for Palestine to join these two organizations in 1995 and 1998.
   After 1967 the center of gravity of the Palestine sports movement was transferred from Gaza to Jordan 1967, Lebanon 1970 and Tunis 1982. Due to the Israeli occupation and the restrictions on all life spheres, the link between the diaspora, the West Bank and Gaza in sports was virtually non-existent.
The Israeli army's destruction of the civil infrastructure  - including sports - in Lebanon in 1982 was the second significant crisis - after 1948 - the sports movement has faced.


[1] Manifestations of Identity: (The Lived Reality of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon), Edited by Mohammad Ali Khalidi, Institute of Palestine Studies. Beirut, 2010.
[2] Sari Hanafi, Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon: Laboratory of Indocile Identity Formation, Manifestations of Identity: the lived Reality of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon, Edited by Muhammad Ali Khalidi, Institute  for Palestine Studies, Institute francais du Proche-Orient. Beirut, 2010.
[3] Edward Said, The Question of Palestine (New York: Vintage Books, 1980), p. 31.
[5] Edward Said, The Question of Palestine, p. 33.
[6] Kosai al-Madhi, al-Haraka al-Riyadiyya wal-Shababiyya wal-Kashfiyya al-Falastiniyya 1917 - 1993 (Palestine Sports, Youth, Scouts Movement 1917 - 1993). Master Thesis, Baghdad 1994.
[7] Ahmad al-Qudwa elected as President, Muhammed Abd al-A’l as Vice President, Mustafa Abu Shahla as Secretary, and Omar Hasan Ali as Assistant Secretary.
[8] Kosai al-Madhi
[9] Kosai al-Madhi
[10] Kosai al-Madhi
[11] In September 1970 a war known as the Black September aylūl al-aswad) broke up between Jordanian army and Palestinian militias.  The violence resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, the vast majority Palestinian.  Armed conflict lasted until July 1971 with the expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization and thousands of Palestinian fighters to Lebanon.
[12] Kosai al-Madhi
[13] Kosai al-Madhi
[14] Civil war broke out between the Maronite forces representing the established order on one side, and the militias of the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) (including the Shi'i militias), led by Ibrahim Qulaylat, on the other side.  The PLO would eventually join the fighting on the side of the LNM and the Lebanese Army would join the side of the Maronites.  Ultimately Syria would join the Maronites, ensuring their victory (March 1976).
[15] Kosai al-Madhi
[16] The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party was a political party founded in Syria.  The party espouse Ba'athism an ideology mixing Arab nationalist, pan-Arabis, Arab socialist and anti-imperialist interests.  Ba'athism calls for the renaissance or resurrection and unification of the Arab World into a single state.  Its motto—"Unity, Liberty, Socialism" (wahda, hurriya, ishtirakiya)—refers to Arab unity, and freedom from non-Arab control and interference.
[17] Kosai al-Madhi
[19]Manifestations of Identity: (The Lived Reality of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon), p. 52
[20] Omar Husein Ali was assigned as President, Na’im Jbara (Kuwait branch) Vice President, Abdallah Za’rour as Secretary, and Jad Abdel Fattah as Treasurer.  In 1982, a new Administrative Board was formed, including Omar Hasein Ali as President, Sameh Abdel Majid as Vice President, Thiab al-Khatib as Secretary, Salah Sh’eb as Vice Secretary, and other members.
[21] For the last time, the administrative board was formed: Omar Husein Ali for President, Tawfiq Mansur (Syria branch) for Vice President, Ahmed Afifi for Secretary, Samih Abdel Majid for Treasurer, Issa al-Hammal for Supplies, Daoud al-Tayeh for Public Relations, Qusei Rif’at (Iraq branch) for Vice Secretary, Farouk Tahhan (Lebanon branch) as a Member, Thiab al-Khatib (Lebanon branch) as a Member, Khalil al-Hajj as a Member, and Ahmed Mahmoud Ali as a Member.
[22]Evacuation Day (also called Independence Day) is Syria's  national day commemorating the evacuation of the last French soldier and Syria's proclamation of full independence and the end of the French mandate of Syria on April 17, 1946.
[23] Al-Ittihad al-Falastini li-Raf’ al-Athqal,
[24] Khalid Ejjawi, al-Haraka al-Riyadiyya al-Falastiniyya fil Shatat, Palestine Sports Movement in the Diaspora, (Damascus: al-Dar Wataniyya al-Jadida, 2001) 485.
[25] Facebook, al-Ittihad al-Falastinilil-Iskuash, Palestine Squash Federation. 4 March 2013.
[26] Khalid Ejjawi,  Al-haraka al-Riyadiayya al-Falastiniyya fi al-Shatat, 516-518.
[27] Khalid Ejjawi,  Al-haraka al-Riyadiayya al-Falastiniyya fi al-Shatat, p. 516 -518.
[29] Khalid Ejjawi, al-Haraka al-Riyadiyya al-Falstiniyya fil-Shatat, p. 523.

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