The Bethlehem2Belfast EP is a joint project from Glasgow based folk-rockers The Wakes, and US radical singer-songwriter David Rovics. It is well worth the price just for the music. However, it is not just a musical contribution you will be making.
You will also be contributing to the Bethlehem2 Belfast Project.
“This summer (August 7th and 8th) a group of youth, both boys and girls, aged between 16 and 21 will make the journey from Aida and Deheishe Refugee Camps in Bethlehem to Belfast, passing through checkpoints, bus terminals and airports. These young people will be representing Palestine in the Anti-Racism World Cup.”
This event, politically and symbolically, contains a great deal of significance for a historian with a bent for international solidarity movements (that would be me). I would like to mention just one, here.
While discussing The Palestine Football Authority’s recent proposal to the FIFA General Assembly that they sanction Israel on the grounds that ”the travel restrictions and checkpoints, imposed by the Israeli government has made the development of Palestinian soccer nearly impossible”, Dave Zirin wrote in The Nation:
In this case, the Israeli Football Association is saying, “Do not use sports as a way to argue for statehood. Sports is not the place for that kind of rhetoric.” The Palestinian FA is saying, “We can’t compete because the politics of the Israeli occupation makes developing soccer a near-impossibility.” This is a very tough argument for the Israeli FA to win. If sports and politics were truly kept separate, then the Palestinian Football Authority would be able to travel freely, receive foreign visitors, and enter international tournaments without the fear of not being able to show up. As I’ve argued here many times, attacking the ability of Palestinian soccer to develop is also about attacking fun, play, and hope.
The Palestinian national football team, at a Melbourne press conference during the Asian Cup last January, described the way the restrictions made playing professional football a seriously risky business. Every time they have a training session, or a match, they know that not only is it likely they will be prevented from attending, but that if they do get permission, they may never be allowed to return home. It’s a lot to go through for a sport, you might think, until you remember that they get treated this way because, and only because, they happen to be Palestinian. Every Palestinian in the Territories, Gaza and the West Bank lives under the same restrictions. This state control of peoples movements is a necessary method of controlling an occupied people, and both the Irish and the Palestinians are familiar with it, historically.
So buy the EP, and cheer for Palestine and “fun, play and hope”. Show your appreciation for Irish-Palestinian solidarity. And, of course, acquire some great music.