Footballers led by a Leamington man have shown Palestinian people living in the war torn West Bank that Westerners are concerned about their plight.
A group, led by IT project manager Jatinder Sanghera, took part in the Football for Palestine trip this month during which they played matches against teams in Hebron, Bil’in, Jenin, Jericho and at the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.
The aim of the trip was to have fun, meet different people, build a greater understanding of Palestine and its political situation and - most importantly - to raise money for charities helping the people there.
Mr Sanghera said: “The warmth and generosity of the Palestinian people is incredible and we were treated like VIPs wherever we went.
“A lot of the people had not even met a Westerner before and they told me they said they thought the West had forgotten about them.
“But we showed them that we do care and we are sympathetic to what is going on out there.”
Along with the football matches, which included a game against a Bedouin team, the group also took part in the olive harvest.
They also had talks with Action Aid and the Jordan Valley Solidarity campaign- two causes their fundraising before the trip will help to support.
Unfortunately the group also ran in to some serious problems at immigration control in Tel Aviv before travelling into Palestine.
Three young men – all British and with British passports were denied entry.
They were the only Muslims in the group, two of whom were of Pakistani origin and one of Yemeni origin.
There were some others of non-white British ethnicity who had been allowed through so the reason would appear to have been their religion.
Two white British women, members of the support group, waited for the detainees but when the immigration officers linked them with the young footballers their own permission to enter the country was then revoked and they were all taken off and interrogated for some hours.
They were then transported to an Israeli detention centre where they were held overnight and then deported back to the UK the following day.
Professor David Mond, the chairman of Justice for Palestinians in Leamington, which sponsored the group and is himself Jewish, said: “I’m appalled by this arbitrary behaviour on the part of the Israeli authorities. It shows their lack of respect for the mutual visa waiver scheme, which is so beneficial to Israelis including those living in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“If the Leamington team had been going to play in settlements I don’t believe they would have any problem at all.”