Thursday, January 10, 2019

Coverage of Sports News in Filastin, 1911 – 1948


Issam Khalidi

       In the early twentieth century, during the last years of Ottoman rule, new national Arab newspapers were created in Palestine. These included Filastin, founded in Jaffa in 1911 by Issa al-Issa and Yusef al-Issa. Its appearance coincided with the acceleration of Jewish immigration to Palestine and with increased Palestinian opposition to it. Palestinian national sentiments and activities were manifested in many aspects of Palestinian life, including sports and Filastin reflected these. This paper examines some of the sport news in Filastin, from 1911 until it ceased publication due to the 1948 war.

For many years, opponents of the Palestinian people’s national aspirations and of the Palestinian national movement have claimed that there have never been a Palestinian people and that no independent cultural and social activities existed. The statement of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, ‘There is no such thing as a Palestinian people   … It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist’, exemplifies this view. The works of scholars such as Walid Khalidi and websites such as have helped put to rest such beliefs. There are, however, still areas of pre-1948 Palestinian life that are virtually unknown and sport is one such area. Research into Palestinian sports history has been hampered by the fact that many of the Palestinian archives containing essential primary sources have been destroyed, intentionally or accidentally, during the many years of conflict and war. Therefore, when Palestinian sport history is presented, there is often much misunderstanding and misinformation. A prime example is the belief that a team representing ‘Palestine’ played in the 1934 and 1938 pre-World Cup games. While it is true that such a team existed, it ignores the fact that there were two rival soccer federations in the land, one Jewish and one Palestinian, and that the Jewish-led one is the one that competed. This misunderstanding is repeated still by Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) and also by some Palestinian websites as well.
  In the important work of understanding the history of Palestinian sports in the years before the war of 1948, the daily newspaper Filastin reveals the existence of many of many Palestinian organizations, activities and aspirations, including in the area of sport. The paper shows that prior to the Nakba (the Catastrophe) of 1948, there were 65 Arab social athletic clubs in Palestine, of which 55 belonged to the Arab Palestine Sports Federation (APSF). The federation was established in 1931 and re-established in 1944, and included athletic clubs from across all regions of the country.
  Filastin was founded in Jaffa in 1911 by Palestinian Greek Orthodox Christian journalist (and cousins), Issa al-Issa and Yusef al-Issa, and appeared until 1948. The paper opposed the Zionist movement and Jewish immigration and settlement of the land and promoted Palestinian nationalism. By the end of the Arab Revolt (1936 – 1939), the majority of Palestinian dailies and weeklies ceased publication because of government censorship and closure. Only Filastin and al-Difa’ (established in 1934), were able to survive and avoid closure by the British authorities, by supporting for a couple of years British policies in Palestine and the Middle East and by adopting a moderate nationalist tone.  
   Filastin reflected the growth of the athletic movement and of sports activities, and especially football, which played a role in shaping the modern Palestinian citizen. It strengthened Palestinian national awareness and identity. Like other sections in the paper, sports coverage all expressed an anti Jewish-Zionist perspective. The sports section became a daily feature after the re-establishment of the Arab Palestine Sports Association in 1944 when there was a marked increase in the number of events.  Despite the harsh censorship imposed by the British on the Palestinian press, the paper’s sport news maintained a consistent critique: challenging the authorities’ neglect of Arab sport and its support of Jewish sport activities. About 80% of the news in Filastin’s sport section was about soccer, the most popular game in Palestine. Filastin used its football coverage to deepen national sentiments and helped to maintain the Palestinian national identity.

Early days
The first Palestinian football team was formed in 1908 at Jerusalem’s St. George School, an elite school for boys. Among the first players was Izzat Tannous, later a physician and prominent Palestinian leader. In 1909, this team defeated the team of the American University of Beirut, which was considered as one of the best teams in the region. There is not much documentation of the St. Georges team’s early existence, but in April 1912 Filastin reported on its game against the Lebanese team, then visiting the country.

The St. George players and the college team from Beirut began the football game. Youth of the college school from Beirut attended with their teachers, coming specifically for this game. At four o’clock the college students and he players from the St. George School appeared in the stadium that was prepared especially for this occasion. The college students won this game. On Wednesday they met with St. John’s school students. [1]

During the first years of the paper’s existence, there were not many sports reports in the paper due to the modest number of Palestinian sports events taking place in the country and the still undeveloped state of sport culture. This situation was in contrast to the prominent place that sports held in the Jewish community. From the beginning of the twentieth century, there were many Jewish scout associations, athletic clubs, athletic parades and festivals. In addition to their intrinsic valued, these activities were used as a tool for achieving nationalist goals. The Zionist leadership viewed establishing athletic federations and committees as a means of legitimizing claims to Palestine. In matches across the region and beyond, the scout and sports organizations helped represent Palestine as ‘Jewish.’ These Jewish sporting activities were described in Filastin on 20 April, in a letter from a reader who visited the Jewish colony of Rehovot:

    At one o’clock in the afternoon the celebration procession came parading around the streets of the colony led by a musical band and flying Zionist flags. They proceeded until they reached the house of the colony president, who came out to the balcony of his house and gave a long speech in Hebrew. I understood from the numerous interruptions of applause that he was very well liked. After that the procession marched in formation through the streets of the colony, and it was an amazing spectacle due to the large number of participants … I was given the impression that this was a well-organized army, considering their skillful movements and discipline. Then they reached the field, and the formation halted. At the front of this agricultural field a large area was designated for athletic events. A number of speakers gave enthusiastic speeches and were met with approving applause by the crowd … then the sports competitions and weightlifting started, and then horse racing, in which both men and women participated. Most of them wore Bedouin clothing and you would have thought they were Arabian knights.

1920 – 1936
After the First World War, the number of Palestinian social clubs including charitable societies, women’s groups and young people’s organizations such as the scouts grew. Their appearance as social as social institutions reflected growing nationalist sentiments in light of the British Mande and Zionist immigration. In the 1920’s, most of these clubs incorporated athletic activities into their programs. A notable club was the Dajani Sports Club of Jerusalem, named for the prominent family, whose son Aref Al-Dajani was mayor of Jerusalem during the war years. Other clubs were affiliated with churches. Sports began to be viewed in the Palestinian community as an important element for raising social consciousness and as an essential component of national culture. Some teams were established as athletic organizations and later added social activities, city and village football teams transformed into athletic clubs changing their names accordingly. At the start of the 1930s, there were about 20 Arab social athletic clubs.[2]
      In the early 1920s, the Palestinian cultural elites still did not view did not view sport activities as important and most papers in the country ignored sports. Gradually, however, the new clubs and their games, tournaments and parades became more popular, with football and boxing attracting the largest number of athletes and spectators. Filastin started to report on these activities, but coverage was sporadic.[3] Coverage increased after the institutionalization of sports and the formation of national associations in the mid-1930s. One theme that was addressed regularly in the paper was the perception that Arab sport development and activities lagged behind Jewish/Zionist sports.[4] This perception was accurate, as organized Jewish sports activities began a few decades earlier and enjoyed the financial support of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, (the leading Jewish political organization) with funds allocated for players, coaches and facilities.[5]
    Filastin was concerned about this disparity between the level of activity and the official and public support experienced in the Jewish and Palestinian communities and made this concern known. In January 1931, the football team of Cairo University came to Palestine and played only against Jewish teams. Filastin critiqued local Arab teams for not challenging the Egyptian team and arranging matches. The paper praised the only Arab team that did arrange a match, the Orthodox Club of Jaffa:

The team of the Egyptian University came to Palestine and matched with the Jewish teams. No Arab team applied to compete with it, except the active Orthodox Club. The result was better than the one with the (Jewish) Maccabi team. This result made us proud and made everyone understand that there are Arab teams in Palestine that are skillful in this game and are on the same level as the British and Jewish teams. [6]

Due to the paper’s editors being members of the Orthodox minority, they often praised the Orthodox Club of Jaffa and its successful performance on the pitch:

We do not exaggerate if we say that the Orthodox Club of Jaffa has done a big favour, which could not be denied, for the progress of soccer in the country. In 1924 this club formed an athletic team, especially for this purpose. It rented a field, so that all its members could promote sports among the people, so that even he who has never thought about sports became interested. Many started to attend all the matches, encouraging the players with enthusiasm. Since its founding its team matched many other teams both in and outside of Jaffa, such as the Jerusalem Orthodox Club, Jerusalemite Baqa’a (al-Baq’a al-Maqdisi), Carmel Club – Haifa, and the Arab Club of Nablus. It also matched many British military teams in Ramla and Sarafand. The teams a description of the match between these two teams was include previously.) We congratulate the team of the Orthodox Club, as a national team, for what it achieved. We wish it success. We ask newspaper owners to encourage it for the benefit of the country. [7]

The newspaper had to retain good relations with the British authorities and thus sometimes included anecdotes that presented the High Commissioner (or other officials) in a humane and playful manner. In response to a reader who inquired about the High Commissioner’s attitude to sport section article described him as loving sports. It described his desire to attend a football match but as it was raining his wife prohibited him form leaving and even closed the doors of the house. He surprised her by climbing the wall and running to watch the match. The author suggests that the athletic committee of the Orthodox Club in Jaffa dedicate its new soccer field under his patronage. [8]

In the early 1930s, Filastin published a number of articles about the Jewish Maccabi and Hapoel clubs, including accounts of their trips to Syria and Lebanon. These teams played with local teams (both Arab and Jewish) and also used these visits to strengthen ties with their sister organizations.[9] One article, titled ‘The incitement of the Zionist flag’, described and incident when the Hapoel Club won a football match in Damascus, and its local Jewish fans carried Zionist flags (bearing the Star of David and the Menorah, symbols of Jewish revival) and sang national songs. Arab spectators did not view this display favourably and fight ensued after several Arab fans tore the Zionist flag.[10] Additional coverage was devoted to the friction and skirmishes between Jewish and Arab fans during other matches.[11] Most of this reporting was characterized by a nationalistic tone and strident rejection of the Zionist existence and policies in Palestine.
 Starting in the 1920s, Jewish football clubs from Europe and from the Middle East began to come to Palestine to compete with local Jewish clubs. The games had, in addition to their sports value, also the goal of strengthening ties between the Jewish communities abroad and local Jewish community. In these matches, too flags with Zionist symbols (the Star of David, the Menorah, etc.) were displayed by th teams and by fans, in violation of an August 1920 British ordinance that stated: ‘The flag or emblem of any state may not be carried or exhibited for the purpose of any partisan demonstrations.’ The ordinance was meant to lessen potential conflict between the Jewish and the Palestinian communities. After a match held in Jerusalem on 12 January 1925, in which Ha’koach Vienna, champions of Austria at the time and one of the leading European teams of the inter-war period played against a selected Jewish team, the executive committee of the Muslim and Christian Association sent the British High Commissioner for Palestine a letter of protest. The committee asked whether the ordinance prohibiting the flying of flags was still in effect. It added, ‘There were more Zionist flags flying around the playing field. So what does his honour the High Commissioner think about this situation?’ The governor of the Jerusalem-Jaffa district replied:

I have the honour of informing you that the flag was the club flag of the Ha’koach football team (from Vienna) … It is apparent that the Ha’koach club flag is no a state flag, and equally apparent that it was not being carried or exhibited for the purpose of any partisan demonstration, and that the ordinance was therefore in no way infringed.[12]

This official reply did not satisfy the Palestinian committee or Filastin that published both letters.
  In 1924, the leadership of the Jewish Maccabi Athletic Association attempted to gain membership in the International Amateur Federation seeking to represent Palestine as ‘Jewish’. The initiative failed, as the federation determined that Maccabi did not represent equally Arab, British and Jewish sportsmen in Palestine. However, this unsuccessful attempt did not discourage Maccabi leader Yosef Yekutieli, who in early 1925 tried to gain Maccabi membership in the FIFA by establishing the Palestine Football Association (PFA).[13]
  Arab teams joined this association, hoping that it will represent all clubs in the country. British teams also became members. The association was not however, an inclusive one, and this became clearer after it joined FIFA in June 1929, Jewish teams dominated the association and Palestinian football officials announced their dissatisfaction with these developments.[14]
  After the Arab Revolt of 1929, Arab reaction to Jewish domination in sport organizations was expressed in conscious decision to expand Palestinian sport activities. Social/athletic clubs and the sports movement in general were more than ever linked to the national movement in the country and its struggles against the Zionist expansion in Palestine. Filastin gained a reputation in the Palestinian community for opposing Zionist activities. It published news that warned about Jewish immigration and Jewish cooperation with the British authorities. The paper advocated non-cooperation with Zionist groups, including in the field of sports. However, while advocating non-corporation with Zionist institutions, the paper also translated sports news from Hebrew newspapers, publications that were strongly affiliated with various political and ideological streams of the Zionist parties.
  In March 1931, a football match between the Egyptian Tarsana team and a joint Jewish-British Army team was held. Filastin published a letter from a reader criticizing the match and implied that Jewish-British co-operation and activities against the Palestinian population extended also beyond the pitch:

A mixture of soldiers of the British Army and Jewish youth were photographed; between them stood the Governor of Jerusalem and the Egyptian Consul …. The flags that were raised on the sides of the stadium were the Egyptian flag, between the English and the Zionist flags …. Around the stadium were many British soldiers and the Palestine police to maintain security.[15]

       Believing that the Palestinian Football Association did not represent Arab interests, Palestinian sport leaders  decided that a new organization was needed. In April 1931, they established the Arab Palestinian Sports Federation (APSF), later renamed the Palestine Sport Association (PSA). Dr. Daud al-Huseini, member of the prominent al-Huseini family (whose members included a mayor of Jerusalem and the Grand Mufti), was elected as secretary of the federation. It immediately called for a boycott of Zionist teams, athletes and referees. This call created conflict between the Orthodox Club in Jaffa and the Arab Sport Club of Jerusalem as the Jaffa team refused to play the match if the Jewish referee assigned conducted it.[16] The new organization proceeded to organize tournaments, such as the Tournament of The Trophy of the Youth (Dir’ Mu’tamar al Shabab), and in reaction to the Jewish Maccabiah games in 1932 and 1935, which as the ‘Jewish Olympics’ drew Jewish athletes from many countries, the Palestinian federation held the Great Scouts Athletic Festival on 14 July 1935, Filastin reported these activities and began to devote more space to sports, a reflection of growing importance accorded to sport in the Palestinian community.
   In 1934 and 1938, a team called ‘Palestine’ was participated in the pre-World Cup games and was defeated by Egypt in 1934 and by Greece in 1938, Filastin chose to ignore these and made these games and made no mention of them due to the fact that the team was composed solely of Jewish players and was organized by the Jewish football organization. The paper reflected the view that the team’s goal was to demonstrate to the world that Palestine was ‘Jewish’.

1936 -1944
Because of the 1936 Arab Revolt, the activities of the Palestinian federations were curtailed and later halted. Several of its teams, wishing to continue playing, joined the Jewish federation that still held matches. Some matches were held between Arab soccer teams, especially the Orthodox clubs in Jaffa, and British Army teams, and Filastin reported them. The paper also reported other sport activities, such as boxing, which in the absence of regular soccer matches became more popular. Due to the decline in the number and quality of most sport activities, the paper’s coverage became less frequent and less space was devoted to the reports.
   With the outbreak of the Second World War and the introduction of new emergency laws, the British ordered the closure of almost all Palestinian papers. Only Filastin and al-Difa’ were able to survive by adopting, for a time, a more moderate nationalist tone and publishing closely censored news.[17] This tone was also noticed in Filastin’s sports news, especially with relation to the Jewish Sports Federation, teams, festivals and matches. As mentioned previously, some Arab clubs joined the Jewish association because there was no functioning Arab federation. During the early years of the war, matches were held between these Arab teams and British and Jewish teams, and Filastin covered them. Under the title ‘Forming a Sport League for the Next Season’, Filastin announced the formation of a league consisting of 27 tams – Arab, Jewish, British and Greek. The paper continued to carry news about the matches of this league until its suspension in October 1943. The paper also noted donations which Arab clubs and athletes sent organizations, such as the Red Cross, in order to aid victims of the war. As a sign of the paper’s more moderate tone, it also published articles about Jewish athletic festivals where some Arab athletes from Palestine and Egypt participates. [18]
  Between 1939 and 1944 several Arab clubs decided to form local leagues and federations, mostly in the cities of Haifa, Lydia and Jerusalem. A basketball federation was also formed. These local and regional leagues constituted the nucleus for the coming Palestine Sport Federation (Association). This new organization was not only a response to Jewish domination of the existing sport organizations, but also an evidence of the growth in Palestinian nationalism and the expansion of social and cultural institutions.

1944 – 1947
By 1944, hopes of bringing Arab clubs under one umbrella were coming together. There were many clubs, mostly of football but also devoted to other sports. Haifa for example, included 43 teams. A football match was planned between the Egyptian Army team and the Jewish-dominated federation. But in contrast to the previous visits of Egyptian teams, this time the Egyptians refused to visit Palestine unless the Arab clubs also organized a team to play against them. This request motivated the Arab clubs to establish their own regional federations so they could also compete. In may 1944, a team was formed to compete with a select British Army team who won the match 1:0. These regional soccer federations, along with the Arab Boxing Federation, came together to form a nations sport organization. At a September 1944 meeting at the Jaffa al-Qawmi Sports Club (Islamic SC, the name has been changed to al-Qawmi since 1941 to 1944), the leaders of 35 clubs re-established a national Arab sport federation. Filastin reported on this meeting:

     Due to the invitation by the Qawmi Club in Jaffa to the athletic clubs’ representatives in Palestine, about the establishing of a general football association, we offer our gratitude to this club for its initiatives. For the spread of any game, it is necessary in any country to have its own association.[19]

The association was registered with the British authorities on 13 September, and immediately sent letters to all Arab sports clubs in Palestine – which included football, basketball, weightlifting, wrestling, table tennis, track and field and tennis – asking them to apply for membership. The new federation flag accompanied the letters. The group also sent letters to Arab clubs, in neighboring states, informing them that Palestine had registered an Arab athletic federation.[20]
  The national group’s by-laws stipulated that no member club was to have any relationship with Jewish organizations. The regulations made it clear that the ‘the federation consists exclusively of Arab, non-Jewish institutions and clubs in Palestine’ and that ‘all clubs must not include Jewish members (with the exception of the YMCA)’. (The YMCA sport teams accepted British, Jewish and Arab members, adopting a neutral position in matters of the national conflict.) Other regulations stipulated that all teams’ donations must come from non-Jewish sources and that teams were not allowed to participate in matches officiates by Jewish referees. The new organization authorized its secretary, Abdelrahman al-Habbab, to arrange matches with international teams and clubs. No club was to contact any foreign team without the permission of the central committee. In March 1945, the central committee asked 45 clubs to agree to these principles and all complied. By 1947 membership had risen to 60 clubs.
  The re-establishment of a national sport organization led to an increase in sport activity and led also to greater and regular sport reporting in Filastin. Extensive coverage was given to the new organization, its activities and its regional and branch committees meetings. [21] Filastin covered many matches and tournaments and reported on the visits of Arab teams, as well as the visits of Palestinian teams and athletes to Arab countries. This coverage was imbued with renewed national pride and feelings of fraternity.
  In 1945, relations between the Jewish community and the British authorities became more contentious, fueled by Jewish frustration and anger at the British authorities’ refusal to allow Jews to enter the country. An armed struggle ensued between the British and the Jewish community.[22]
Sensing an opportunity mend relation, the PSA approached the British Army football teams and organized matches between British and Arab teams. These continued until late 1947, when, following the UN Resolution on the partition of Palestine and the end of the British Mandate, the British soldiers had more pressing matters to attend to, before their scheduled 15 May 1948 departure. Filastin’s reported on these matches, indicating that playing as equal with the British was a cause for pride.
   In February 1946, Filastin announced the formation of a Palestinian national team that was ready to play British teams.[23] The paper chose, however, to ignore the fact that some players on this national team have played previously against team that included both British and Jewish players, in direct violation of the association by-laws.[24]
  By the end of 1947, the Palestinian federation had achieved impressive results in its level of organization and in the number of clubs, matches held, and competition with Arab teams from the neighboring countries. The Jewish led PFA, sensing a threat from the activities of the new Palestinian Soccer Federation, tried to weaken it by asking Palestinian clubs to rejoin its ranks and to compete against Jewish teams. A report sent by the Central Committee the Palestinian federation to Filastin stated:

The Central Committee has been informed that some of the clubs received reports from the Jewish Association of Soccer in Palestine offering them to join this association. Some of these clubs responded by showing their commitment tour organization, insisting they will not join the Zionist association. Therefore, we requested other Palestinian clubs to send similar responses, and the Central Committee is going to prepare these responses and distribute them to the clubs, in order they are sent onto the Zionist association.[25]

When in May 1945, the French raided and occupied the Syrian parliament, the PSF Central Committee called on its member clubs to support the Syrian Sport Association by donating money to the victims of the French invasion. Palestinian clubs responded immediately. Filastin published information about this call and the donations, and stated that these reflected the close ties between the two sporting associations and between the two people. Palestinian clubs responded and raised funds.[26] During this time, the paper increased its sports coverage and maintained a strong nationalistic stand. It congratulated Palestinian athletes who were released from British prisons where they were imprisoned for their political activities, and in late October 1947, a few days before the 30th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the paper’s sport section noted the date and published an article titled ‘Sports condemns the Balfour declaration’.

  We got a report from our sports correspondent that in solidarity with all the national and social organizations, the Palestinian federation and the athletic teams postponed their matches that were supposed to be held tomorrow because of the anniversary of the sinister and inauspicious Balfour declaration.[27]

  In its last years of existence, the paper’s sports section was edited by Hussein Husni, who came to Palestine from Egypt and taught physical education at the Rawdat al-Ma’aref school in Jerusalem. Husni also served, at the request of the Higher Islamic Committee, as supervisor of the schools of the Islamic orphanage (Awqaf Dar al-Aitam al-Islamiya). After the re-establishment of the Palestinian sport association he became a member of its track-and-field committee, and sports editor of Filastin. Husni’s articles and editorship reflected an awareness of the essential role of sports and physical education and he tried to generate interest in physical activity by emphasizing the many physical and metal benefits due to exercise. He also advocated exercise for women and criticized the British authorities for their neglect of sports in the Palestinian community. In one article, he described the sorry state of Jerusalem’s athletic facilities, which included six playing fields of which only two were to be used by the entire Arab population. The army had occupied one of these two fields, the YMCA field, for seven months, while the second, belonging to the Terra Santa School, had to accommodate all matches. ‘We all ask: “Where is the government?” Others ask: “Where is the municipality?” I say frankly: “they are not ready to offer assistance for the benefit of the body’.[28]
  The advancement of organized sports in Palestine was closely linked to the development of education. Most institutions had competitive football teams, but physical education was still not regarded as a priority. Few schools had a physical education curriculum, and classed were held only once a week. Some schools had an alumni league and some school districts held annual athletic tournaments, in May and June. Scout organizations also had football teams and their members biked for exercise and pleasure. Many of these scout troops were members of the national sport organization. In August 1945, the leaders of the social-athletic clubs and Arab societies decided to form the Arab Scouts Association (Jama’ait al-Kashaf al-Arabi), which included most Arab Scout organizations in the country.

In the court of FIFA
The competing Jewish and Palestinian sport associations aimed to be the sole representatives of Palestine in international competitions. FIFA was drawn into this conflict. By 1945, the team of the Jewish-controlled association had played five international matches representing Palestine. The Arab federation sought to challenge this right. A memorandum sent to FIFA by the Palestinian group presented a brief explanation of the nature of the Jewish-Palestine conflict and reported on the increased Jewish settlement of land. While expressing appreciation for FIFA’s desire to find a solution for the issue of representation, it suggested that Palestine be represented by two federations, one Arab and one Jewish. ‘We could say simply’, the group wrote: ‘that the members of your federation will not succeed in achieving what the British administration could not do’.[29]
  The issue of the Palestinian association’s membership application to FIFA was discussed at an international conference held in Luxembourg in August 1946. A representative of the Jewish association spoke, saying that his association was democratic and inclusive, though it had a Jewish majority. He claimed that the number of Arab clubs in Palestine did not exceed four or five, and that this indicated athletic inferiority. He argued that Arab clubs could join and that if they become a majority in the association that would be fine and proof of the group’s democratic structure. Finally, he proposed that the Palestinian association’s application for membership be rejected. [30] The Lebanese delegation supported the Palestinian association’s membership, arguing that FIFA’s goal was to allow representation of every football league and that the presence of two in one country should not pose a problem. Most FIFA members opposed, however, the entry of another football association from Palestine and rejected the motion. The Syrian Sport Federation informed the Palestinian federation that it could be included under the Syrian group’s umbrella, allowing it to complete more easily in international events. Still, exclusion from membership reflected FIFA’s bias, the weakness of Arab support for such initiatives, and the Zionist sport movement’s ability to organize to achieve its goals.
    On 15 March 1945, an article by Husni described a Palestinian upcoming trip to Cairo in order to arrange games between Palestinian and Egyptian teams. Husni urged the delegates to discuss the Jewish controlled association that is ‘representing us against our will. We are also asking Egypt to intercede on our behalf and insist on the elimination of the PFA. This association does not represent anyone but itself and its community, and not the Arab Palestinian people. If getting rid of the association is impossible then two-thirds of its seats should be allocated to the Palestinian community. This association was founded in 1922 [sic; 1928] and represented Palestine internationally, while the game among the Arabs was still in its formative stage. Twelve members managed this association. None of them are Arab, it is located in Tel Aviv, and until this day it still represents Palestine. It will be a great injustice if this association continues to represent Arab Palestine internationally when our games and our association are already organized and among our youth there are stronger, better and more professional athletes than they are. The Arab teams cannot visit Palestine and play with us if this illegal association refuses to let them. Egypt is also forced to comply with this if it wishes to keep the international order and laws that are followed in other countries. As long as this irregular and exceptional situation does not come to an end, efforts must be invested in Egypt in order to establish an Oriental Sports Association that will begin operation immediately. [31]

In the last two years of the British Mandate, Filastin devoted many of its sports coverage to the role of sport in achieving national goals and building an internationally recognized state. As hostilities between the Jewish and the Palestinian populations intensified, the paper also began to report on the deaths of well-known athletes. In early 1948, Zaki al-Darhali, a left winger on the national team, and Said Shunneir, secretary of the association’s Jaffa regional committee, died in the bombing by Zionist gangs of the social Services Centre building [Sarai] in Jaffa. On its front page, Filastin published the news and offered condolences. [32] Another obituary, titled ‘The martyrdom of youth in the battlefield’, was about the player Aref al-Nu’man began:

The Club of al-Ittihad al-Qarawi (The Village Union Club) offers its condolences on the death of its active member and great athlete, the martyr Araf al-Nu’man who died in the public hospital in Jerusalem after he was wounded in the battlefield.[33]

Another column described the death of Muhammed al-Naqa, of the Islamic Sports Club in Jaffa ‘who fell down as a martyr while he was accomplishing his national duty in the late battle of Abu Kabir.[34]
 After the Israeli conquest of Jaffa, many of the city’s Palestinian residents left. Among the refugees was the paper’s publisher Issa al-Issa. He died in Beirut in 1950. His son, Raja El-Issa, kept the paper alive, publishing it first in East Jerusalem and after the 1967 war in Amman, Jordan. The paper later merged with the Jordanian Al-Manar to form al-Dustour.
  Palestinian newspapers, and especially Filastin fulfilled during their existence an important role in Palestinian society. The paper’s sports pages reported on the emerging teams and athletes, promoted various sports activities and especially soccer, encouraged readers to see the health benefits of regular exercise and gave voice to Palestinian sport. Filastin’s articles demonstrated the way that the political developments impacted every aspect of life, including sports. Filastin fills part of the large gap. It is an important tool for writing Palestinian history in general and sports history in particular. 

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Harif, H: Galily, Y. 'Sport and Politics in Palestine, 1918-48: Football as a Mirror Reflecting the Relations between Jews and Britons'. Soccer and Society, Vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 41-56.
Kabha, M. ‘The Palestinian Press and the General Strike, April – October 1936: “Filastin” as a Case Study’. Middle Eastern Studies, 39, no. 3 (July 2003): 169 -89.
Kaufman, Haim. Jewish Sports in the Diaspora, Yishuv, and Israel: Between Nationalism and Politics Israel Studies - Volume 10, Number 2, Summer 2005, pp. 147-167.
Khalidi, I. ‘Body and Ideology: Early Athletics in Palestine: 1900-1948’, Jerusalem Quarterly 27 (2007): 44-58.
Khalidi, I. ‘The Zionist movement and sports in Palestine, The Electronic Intifada’, (April 27, 2009)
Khalidi, Walid. Before their Diaspora: A Photographic History of the Palestinians 1876-1948 (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1984). 
Khalidi, I. ‘Palestine Football Association: the Need to Streamline History’.
Musallam, Adnan, ‘Turbulant Times in the Life of the Palestinian Arab Press: The British Era, 1917.-1948’ 
Sorek, Tamer. 'Palestinian Nationalim Has Left the Field: A Shortened History of Arab Soccer in Israel'. Middle East Studies 35 (2003): 417 -37.

Sorek, T. ‘The Sports Column as a Site of Palestinian Nationalism in the 1940s’. Israel Affairs 13, no. 3 (July 2007): 605-16.


[1] Filastin 13 April 1912.
[2] Khalidi, ‘Body and Ideology’.
[3] Until the end of 1947, Filastin continued to report on schools’ annual sports festival. At that time, due to the escalating armed conflict such events were ceased.
[4] Sorek, ‘The Sports Column’.
[5] Khalidi, ‘The Zionist Movement’.
[6] Filastin 28 March 1931.
[7] Filastin 3 May 1931.
[8] Filastin 17 December 1927.
[9] Filastin 29 May 1931.
[10] Filastin 16 April 1929.
[11] Filastin 6 April 1926. ‘A Match which Almost Ended with a Revolt’.
[12] The Palestine Bulletin, 24 March 1925.
[13] Kaufman, ‘Jewish Sports in the Diaspora’.
[14] Khalidi, ‘Palestine Football Association’.
[15] Filastin 28 March 1931.
[16] Filastin 21 January 1933.
[17] Musallam, ‘Turbulent Times’.
[18] Filastin 27 January 1942.
[19] Filastin 5 April 1944.
[20] The Central Committee included regional representatives: Ibrahim Nuseibeh and Rock Farraj for Jerusalem, Yunis Nafa’a and Fahd Abdelfattah for Haifa, Abdelrahman al-Habbab and Spiro Iqdis for Jaff, Rashad al-Shawwa for Gaza, Jamal Yusif Qasim for Nablus and Muhammad al-Zu’ubi for the Galilee region.
[21] Filastin 21 October 1946.
[22] Harrif, ‘Sport and Politics in Palestine’.
[23] Filastin 17 February 1946.
[24] This inconsistency was noted by Khair Addin Abu al-Jibin, editor of al-Difa’ sport column in his 2002 memoir. Abu al-Jibin, Qissat Haiati fi Filastin wa al-Kuwait, p. 442.
[25] Filastin 20 November 1946.
[26] Filastin 4 July 1945.
[27] Filastin 24 October 1947.
[28] Filastin The Football fields in Jerusalem were at the YMCA, St. George’s School, al-Rawda, Terra Santa School, Hashmonai, Zion School, al-Umma School and al-Katamon.
[29] APSF, Memorandum to FIFA, Jaffa, 1946.
[30] Prior to 1948, there were some 65 Arab athletic clubs in Palestine; approximately 55 of them members of the APSF.
[31] Sorek, ‘Palestinian Nationalism Has Left the Field.
[32] Filastin 6 January 1948.
[33] Filastin 10 January 1948.
[34] Filastin 14 February 1948. Al-Naqa was a sport columnist in the newspaper al-Sha’b.

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