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Tokyo urges Jews to “lean on” Israel for peace

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MOIRA SCHNEIDER

He also stated that football was a “very, very powerful instrument” which could go a long way towards solving the problems of the region.

Sexwale, a former Cabinet minister and chairman of the Fifa monitoring committee for Israel and Palestine, was speaking at a gala dinner for the WJC National Community Directors’ Forum at The Lookout, V & A Waterfront.

The conference, held for the first time on South African soil, brought together delegates from 50 countries. Among those attending the event hosted by Eric and Sheila Samson, were Minister of Justice, Michael Masutha, premier of the Western Cape Helen Zille, leaders of political parties, members of parliament and other dignitaries.  

In a pre-recorded video interview with journalist Mandy Wiener, Sexwale apologised for his absence due to his having to travel to London at short notice to attend a Fifa meeting. 

“Our hearts go out to the Israeli and Palestinian people,” he began. “We’re trying to use football to try and bring people together, so football is not used as a political football but as an instrument to unify people.”

In a message to the WJC, Sexwale said: “Here in South Africa, we have both Jewish and Muslim people. We can find one another – in that part of the world they’re killing each other.

“It’s not acceptable that the Palestinian people should be digging tunnels to murder others but it’s also not acceptable that in retaliation there’s such a lot of collateral damage.”

The Palestinians claim that football is being played and managed by the Israeli Football Association in territories which are occupied by Israel and which they feel belong to them. Israelis say the final resolution of those problems has not occurred and they would remain in those settlements, he said of the divisions.

“Our job is to facilitate the movement of players – when we started three years ago, people couldn’t move. It would take the whole day. We’ve resolved that working with Israeli security and the Palestinians.”

Sexwale said that whatever decision Fifa took, it had to be aware of the sensitivities and the historical nature of the conflict. To critics of the Human Rights Commission and others who said it was taking too long to resolve the issues, he said: “We have to give the process ample time for people to find each other – you’re dealing not with football, but with sensitivities.”

Describing the WJC as a “very powerful organisation” he said: “There’s a need for them from time to time to lean on Israel and encourage them.

“At the checkpoints, I see kids in uniforms of the Israeli Defence Forces who feel that they’re surrounded and indeed they’ve got a small state there. Sometimes it’s easy to make a mistake and to overreact.

“People must be careful that the reaction is not one that negates the good name of the Jewish state.”

He appealed to the WJC not to adopt a “knee-jerk defence” towards whatever happened in Israel and to work with the Palestinians too. 

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