Five Palestinians cheering for France at the World Cup 20 years on

French football fans hold a minute of silence to mark the one-year anniversary of the November 13 Paris attacks ahead of the 2018 World Cup group A qualifying football match between France and Sweden at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, on November 11, 2016. Images: FIFA.com

By Marwan Bishara

Twenty years ago, I was asked by the General Council of the Parisian suburb Seine-Saint-Denis to invite four Palestinian youth to attend the World Cup in France and to organise their visit.

At the time, football was the last thing on my mind. I was finishing my doctorate in France, doing my research on Israel/Palestine and, in between, participating actively in human rights campaigns.

But then, this wasn’t just about football and the World Cup. It was also about an act of solidarity and fraternity that French progressives wanted to undertake.

READ MORE: Paul Lewis: Why the world needs France to win the World Football Cup

So, I accepted the mission, only to realise that this would turn into an experience of a lifetime for me and for the lucky four who made it from Palestine to Paris.

In order to pick the four young Palestinians, I ran a lottery in a weekly newspaper called, Fasl Al Maqal, published in Nazareth but distributed throughout Palestine. I ended up with four lucky winners from the Galilee, the West Bank and Gaza.

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The French consulate in Jerusalem was just as excited as we were and issued the visas rather swiftly to enter France. That was the easy part. Leaving Israeli-controlled Palestine was another matter.

At every checkpoint we had to pass, we were stopped and questioned. At Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, it was even worse.

More harassment
Once the security officers heard where we were going and what we were going for, their jealousy transformed into more questioning and harassment.

The winner from Gaza was not let in on the flight. The poor guy had to turn back, go to Rafah, cross into Egypt and fly to Paris from Cairo. He, too, made it in the end, albeit a bit late.

Once in France, we were accommodated in a youth facility in a suburb west of Paris along with youth from France and elsewhere. As my Palestinian companions kicked around the ball with their French peers, their only common language was football and that’s all they needed to communicate.

When we made it to the Stade de France stadium, located in Seine-Saint-Denis, for the semi-finals between France and Croatia, to our surprise, we found out that all five of us were in fact VIP guests at the council’s special suite.

It is difficult to describe the scene of four young men who had never been outside their camp, town or homeland being introduced to Parisian elegance.

Imagine, young Palestinians in jeans and sneakers and with a big passion for football walking into the VIP lounge of Stade de France and mingling with the French elites and international celebrities.

Imagine them strolling across the lounge, past beautiful hostesses, and onto the open balcony that overlooked the pitch where 22 football superstars were lining up to the cheers of 80,000 fans.

Best French cuisine
And that wasn’t all, for me at least: The menu featured the best of French cuisine and wines. As the guys cheered, I ate.

When the match started, one of the Palestinians whispered in my ear: “Isn’t this just a perfect place to plant a Palestinian flag?” And it was. One of them had brought a small flag along just in case so we put it up.

Our French hosts were generous and gracious with the Palestinian boys. And the most excited and passionate among them was a progressive French Jew. He was also the funniest. This added yet another twist to our journey, for until that moment a couple of my travel companions had never met a Jew who wasn’t a soldier or a settler.

And here they were – on an exciting trip, watching a World Cup match, in an amazing city, at a spectacular stadium, hanging out with wonderful people.

Oh, and what a match it was! France beat Croatia 2-1 in a thrilling 90 minutes!

It was our win too. It was heaven on earth. There was no fear, no hate, just bonheur.

And it went on. Three days later, on July 11 we went to the playoff for the third place at the Parc des Princes stadium where Croatia beat the Netherlands.

Back to reality
After that match, the reality came back to the Palestinian four, as we began to prepare for the departure. One or two began to wonder why they had to leave, or more accurately, how they could go back, how they could live a normal life after all they had seen.

But this wasn’t going to be the end of the wonderful trip. I had a surprise for them: We were going to the World Cup final! We were going to see France and Brazil play. They just couldn’t believe it.

My ticket from the 1998 World Cup final between France and Brazil. Image: Marwan Bishara/Al Jazeera

July 12 was an unforgettable day. The match was exciting. Zinedine Zidan scored twice, France won 3-0. But it seemed the sweetest victory that that day belonged to my young Palestinian companions. They saw it all and they were going to tell and retell that story for decades to come.

After the game, we went to Champs Elysees to celebrate along with thousands of French fans until the early hours of the morning. One of us even got a French kiss.

When in Paris, you kiss and tell. And what happens at the World Cup doesn’t stay at the World Cup.

Now there was an urgent need to go home and tell the story about a dream come through.

I think about these young men and those glorious days every four years when the World Cup kicks off. And I bet, these four Palestinians, who are now grown-up middle-aged men, will be rooting for Les Bleus today, just like I will.

Dr Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera. This article is republished with the author’s permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Asian rights body calls for more action by Jakarta over Papuan health crisis

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Asian rights body calls for more action by Jakarta over Papuan health crisis

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen was given exclusive access to report on the measles outbreak from Asatat, in Indonesia’s Papua province.

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called for more action about the health crisis facing Asmat regency in Indonesian-ruled Papua.

The commission has blamed the Indonesian government “for this considerable loss of life”.

“The current efforts to address the problem are simply too little, too late,” it said in a statement from Hongkong.

So far, 68 children have died from measles and serious malnutrition in Asmat.

As reported by national media in Indonesia, the measles and malnutrition epidemic has affected 11 districts of Asmat regency: Swator, Aswi, Akat, Fayit, Pulau Tiga, Kolf Branza, Jetsy, Pantai Kasuari, Safan, Unirsarau, and Siret.

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“Being the most remote areas of Asmat regency, victims in these districts have faced serious difficulties in obtaining access to medical facilities,” the AHRC statement said.

“Even in the regency’s capital, Agats, the Agats General Hospital (RSUD) is not equipped to deal with all the patients of measles and malnutrition.”

Patients in church
A category D hospital with limited facilities, paramedics and doctors, the hospital at present needed more medicine due to limited stock, and due to limited space, some patients have been hospitalised in the nearest church building, the AHRC statement said.

This circumstance showed how Papua had been left behind in terms of health facilities, infrastructure and development.

In Jakarta, Java island or other islands such as Sumatra and Bali, there were numerous public and private hospitals of type B and A, easy to access, the statement said.

Papua mostly has public hospitals of type D, especially in remote areas. There is a category A hospital in Jayapura city, the capital of Papua, but it is quite far from Agats and to reach Jayapura from Agats is not easy due to the lack of infrastructure.

“This situation clearly highlights how neither the central government of Indonesia in Jakarta, nor the local government in Papua province and Asmat regency have been able to develop an early warning system to prevent measles and malnutrition.”

Screen shots from an Al Jazeera report by Step Vaessen on the measles outbreak in Papua. Image: PMC

The AHRC said it was concerned that the epidemic could easily spread to other places in Papua, particularly in remote areas lacking in health facilities.

Since Papua was integrated into the Republic of Indonesia in 1969, Papua has remained the poorest and least developed province.

Citizens’ rights
As a state party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Indonesia was obligated to:

  • ensure its citizens’ rights to be free from hunger;
  • address the prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases; and
  • create conditions which would assure medical attention to all.

Similarly, national laws such as Law No. 36 of 2009 guaranteed the right to equal health access for all citizens, the AHRC said.

The commission said it viewed the current lack of health access and facilities in Papua – and the deaths of 68 children – as a clear violation of the Indonesian government’s responsibility towards its citizens.

“By not developing equal health care in Papua, the government is to blame for this considerable loss of life. The current efforts to address the problem are simply too little, too late,” the statement said.

The AHRC said the government should immediately announce a health emergency in Papua and open access for medical aid, including international medical support. It should also allow access to the media to ensure accountability and to monitor the eradication of the epidemic.

The government also needed an affirmative action policy to boost development of health access in Papua.

Priority for Papua
The assistance from the central government should not merely be limited to eradicating disease in Asmat regency, but should ensure that remote areas in Papua received priority in development of health access, facilities and infrastructure, the statement said.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), the Minister of Health and Ombudsman of Republic of Indonesia, the House of Representatives, in particular Commission IX which concerns health, food and medicines, should take initiatives to monitor, evaluate and ensure the implementation of such policies, the AHRC said.

Local government should also open access for NGOs and media to monitor the recovery and development in remote areas.

The AHRC also urged the government to comprehensively ensure that all children, including pregnant mothers in Papua, particularly in Asmat regency, were given enough nutrition, food, and vaccines to prevent disease.

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‘We’re losing the climate change battle,’ says Macron

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ‘We’re losing the climate change battle,’ says Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron appeals to the world to do more on climate change. Video: Al Jazeera

French President Emmanuel Macron has delivered a rallying cry to world leaders that more must be done to fight climate change.

But he told a global summit in Paris that they were currently “losing the battle”.

The summit is promoting greater worldwide investment in clean energy, reports Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler.

From Suva, The Fiji Times reports that of the various commitments on climate finance made at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, last month, only a small proportion will be finding its way into supporting climate adaptation or resilience.

Better green funding needed
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama made this statement while speaking at the Paris summit, reports Alisi Vucago.

“The data on this is clear. For many donors, this is simply regarded as development assistance. And for private sector investors, the absence of an immediate and apparent economic return on their investment means that funding climate adaptation or resilience efforts are rarely pursued,” said the COP23 co-president.

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“The leaders on this panel are fully aware of the need to make substantial investments in our infrastructure to protect against the danger of climate change.”

Bainimarama said Fiji was focused on rebuilding and strengthening our infrastructure in a climate resilient way, with blended finance from institutions like the Green Climate Fund and multilateral development banks to supplement the Fijian government’s own capital investments.

“And we are developing insurance products for the Pacific region which are currently not available for climate-related events, which could be replicated beyond the region,” he said.

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