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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.