Tell Puma that if it opposes racism, then it must oppose the Israeli occupation

Black Lives Matter is forcing the sports world to confront racism - yet the prejudice which destroyed my career is largely ignored.
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Puma has been calling for action against hate. So why is it supporting the hate which is destroying lives and poisoning the beautiful game?

Eight years ago, my life changed forever. I was 22 and living my footballing dream. I was on the national team, had represented my country at the Olympics, and had just signed to a professional club in the West Bank. But on my way to meet my new team, I was seized by Israeli security forces. No charges were ever brought against me, nor was I brought to trial, and yet I was imprisoned for three years and brutally tortured. It was only after a 96-day hunger strike that international pressure forced the Israeli regime to release me.

The shadow of a Palestinian youth playing football silhouetted against a banner in solidarity with Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud Sarsak in the southern Gaza Strip on June 10, 2012. (Photo: Eyad Al Baba/APA Images)

Why me? All I had ever wanted was to play football. My greatest wish was to use my skills to honor my people. To be part of a game which, for me, is about peace, love and connection with other countries and cultures. But to a regime which needs the world to close its eyes to the hate, injustice and violations against my people, that makes me a threat. Because Palestinians in the international arena remind the world that we exist, that we are as human as you are, and that we deserve the same respect and basic protections as anyone else. That’s why we see Palestinian talent suppressed and attacked by all means possible. It’s why we see restrictions and bans affecting games, blocking training and support, and putting sports and cultural figures at risk of imprisonment, exile and death.

Today, I see the sports world being forced to confront racism and hate by Black Lives Matter – and yet the prejudice which destroyed my career is largely ignored. Sportswear giant Puma has taken a public stance against hate, putting out ads and hosting ‘honest conversations’ on racism. And yet it continues to be complicit in the subjugation of my people. Puma is the main sponsor of the Israel Football Association, which, according to Human Rights Watch, includes football clubs based in settlements on stolen Palestinian land. Settlements are illegal under international humanitarian law, contribute to serious human rights abuses, and directly impact Palestinian freedom of movement, access to natural resources and ability to build homes. Instead of opposing this injustice, Puma’s sponsorship brings international legitimacy to the Israel Football Association, diverting attention away from the escalating violations and hate the Palestinian people face.

We cannot pick and choose with racism. Either we stand against all hate and all violations of rights and humanity, or we are part of the problem. Right now, Puma is part of the problem.

Please join me in calling on it to live up to its own words — and join Palestinian athletes in boycotting Puma.

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Sarsak makes a compelling case for Puma to not be hypocrites, be against against all hate and get to the moral high ground.

The irony is that Israel does not realise its actions have made and continue to make a one-state solution inevitable. It is impossible for Israel to continue to crush more than 6 million Palestinians under military occupation, purely because they are not followers of Judaism, but are instead Muslims and Christians. It is also impossible for Israel to drive them out or even attempt to kill them. Israelis may believe Palestinian non-Jews are subhuman but… Read more »

Excellent piece Mahmoud. It goes to the heart of how the Israeli regime continues to smother your existence at all times. We will never give up or give in to their relentless efforts to shut us up. Sue from London X