Israeli statement on Sport for Peace and Development

Sport for Peace and Development

  •   Ambassador David Roet addresses the UN General Assembly
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    Israel is proud to be one of the co-sponsors of today’s resolution, which focuses on sport as a rallying point. We encourage all people in the Middle East and throughout the world to use sport to promote coexistence, to learn from one another, and foster peace and harmony.
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    Following the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, Mifalot set up football teams for youths in refugee camps. Following the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, Mifalot set up football teams for youths in refugee camps. Copyright: Mifalot: Sport for Education, Development, and Peace
    Following the Haiti earthquake in January 2010, Mifalot set up football teams for youths in refugee camps. (Photo: Mifalot: Sport for Education, Development, and Peace)
     
    Madam President,
     
    On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to thank the UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Wilfried Lemke, for his important work encouraging dialogue, collaboration and partnerships.
     
    Madam President,
     
    Israel is proud to be one of the co-sponsors of today’s resolution, which focuses on sport as a rallying point. It is interesting that sport, which brings people to compete against one another, can transcend differences and establish common ground. Put more simply, sport fosters friendship, cooperation and understanding.
     
    In 1971, the Chinese government invited American Ping-Pong players to exhibition matches in China. It was the first time Americans were allowed into the country since 1949. Within a year, President Richard Nixon travelled to China, effectively ending two decades of unfriendly relations.
     
    Sports have the ability to touch hearts and minds, and bring tangible benefits to every corner of the globe.
     
    Madam President,
     
    Throughout the world, there are hundreds of nonprofit organizations that seek to bridge cultural divides and eliminate hatred through sports.
     
    In Israel, the Peres Center for Peace was founded by Israel’s President Peres to further his vision of having people in the Middle East work together in genuine friendship.
     
    One of the programs run by the Center is the Twinned Peace Sport Schools. It is the longest running coexistence sport project in the Middle East. Every year, close to 2,000 Israeli and Palestinian children participate in programs with "twinned" communities across the country. The project fosters peace and coexistence amongst young Palestinians and Israelis by diffusing stereotypes. Palestinian and Israeli children unite under a common banner to cheer each other on and build lasting friendships.
     
    Programs like these have two goals - teaching children how to score goals, and more importantly, teaching them mutual respect, equity and reciprocity. In the process, they can heal wounds, mend fences, and overcome differences.
     
    Madam President,
     
    Sadly not all sporting events have been driven by these ideals.
     
    We recall the 1972 Olympic Games massacre in Munich, when Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and referees under the interlocking rings of the Olympic banner. It is regrettable that more than 40 years after the Munich massacre, the International Olympic Committee has refused all requests to observe a moment of silence in their honor. The memory of this inhumane act is still felt in Israel, and is a warning for the ages that sport cannot be used as a vehicle for incitement and hatred.
     
    While we like to think that the days of discrimination are behind us, Israel continues to suffer from prejudice in certain sporting arenas. Only weeks ago, a Tunisian athlete was forced by his national federation to forfeit a quarterfinal match against an Israeli opponent in a tennis tournament in Uzbekistan.
     
    Over the years we have seen the same in wrestling and boxing rings, on the volleyball courts, and at swimming meets. Athletes are being ordered to forfeit years of training and give up medal chances simply because their opponents are Israeli. There is no justification for the intrusion of politics into the world of sport. This flies in the face of everything that sportsmanship represents. Israeli athletes of every faith and political affiliation will continue to compete with other athletes - without prejudice or discrimination.
     
    Today, we must recommit to advancing sports and ensuring that every athlete is given the opportunity to compete. We must commit to being the torchbearers of the true Olympic spirit; ensuring that sport carries connotations of peace, harmony and tolerance – and is not hijacked by those committed to fundamentalist ideologies.
     
    Madam President,
     
    Sporting initiatives in Israel break down boundaries like class, religion, race, and even physical abilities. Institutions like the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled are helping integrate every member of society. By encouraging youth with disabilities to participate in sports, the organization is helping heal psychological and physical wounds while building self-confidence.
     
    Israel is sharing its experience using sport to promote peace and tolerance with countries throughout the developing world. Mifalot: Sport for Education, Development, and Peace is the largest and most diverse sport-for-development and peace organization in the Middle East. With over 300 programs, Mifalot harnesses the power and popularity of football to build compassionate and cohesive communities. From leadership training to assisting new immigrants, Mifalot helps thousands of people with educational and social needs. Today Mifalot applies its successful model to utilize football – the world game – as a platform for social change in countries from Jordan to Rwanda and from Haiti to Nigeria.
     
    As Israel’s President Shimon Peres said: “Peace should be done not only among governments but among people.” Sport has the ability to unite us, but only if the politics of coexistence come before the politics of hate and division. We encourage all people in the Middle East and throughout the world to use sport to promote coexistence, to learn from one another, and foster peace and harmony.
     
    Thank you, Madam President.
     
 

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