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Scottish Friends of Palestine take on referees

    Meir Levy: took charge of Hamilton’s home game against St Mirren
    Meir Levy: took charge of Hamilton’s home game against St Mirren

    The Scottish Friends of Palestine have complained to European football's governing body over its "failure to address the actions of Israel against Palestine", after two Israeli referees stepped in during a strike.

    Referees from Portugal, Malta, Luxembourg and Israel were drafted in to officiate at 11 Scottish matches last weekend after Scots referees refused.

    Israel's Meir Levy refereed Hamilton's game against St Mirren along with two Israeli assistants. Another Israeli team, led by Eli Hacmon, officiated in Kilmarnock's game against Aberdeen.

    A spokesman for the Scottish Friends of Palestine said the group objected to football authorities accepting the referees and claimed no-one from the Israel soccer community had publicly expressed reservations "against the actions of their state . . ." or mentioned the deaths of two Palestinian players last year. He said: "The time is long overdue for the sports community in Scotland to cease co-operating with, pandering to, the national sports bodies of an apartheid state which has imposed a deadly, collective and mediaeval punishment on a civilian population."

    The group also backed an open letter from Palestinian sports clubs in Gaza, sent to UEFA describing their conditions.

    If we had known the reason, we wouldn’t have come

    But Myer Green, co-founder of the Scottish Friends of Israel, said: "The Scottish Friends of Palestine have reacted predictably, exploiting a gratuitous opportunity to exhibit their antipathy towards Israel.

    "The involvement of Israeli referees here in the UK, coinciding with the letter to UEFA by several signatories from Gaza, has provided them with the justification they seek to seek to politically ostracise Israel and exclude her from the world's sporting community. In complete contrast, the fans showed their appreciation of the Israeli referee and linesmen, by treating them to an ovation.

    "What we are witnessing is a power struggle for world opinion which it attempts to influence, with views which they hope will be swallowed hook, line and sinker."

    Mr Hacmon said he was asked to take part under false pretences. He said: "We should have been standing together with our colleagues. If we had known the reason for the strike was lack of respect for referees by coaches, we wouldn't have come. I heard about this just before the match. It angers and saddens me. They had told us that the reasons for the strike were political."

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