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Beyond Sport Statement on Israel-Hamas War

October 24, 2023

As the devastation and suffering in Israel and Gaza continue, our hearts and thoughts are firmly with the Israeli and Palestinian people, our partners in the region and everyone affected by the senseless violence and hate. We condemn the Hamas terrorist attacks, rising anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of innocent lives.

Beyond Sport’s mission has always been to support programs and ideas that are positively impacting communities and helping to put us all on the path to peace and prosperity; sports-based projects that are committed to pulling communities together, often in the face of dangerous circumstances, and based on an unfailing respect for human life.

We are reaching out to our partners in the region to find ways to help and will share them with our network as we hear back. In the meantime, below are some of the dedicated organizations working in and around Israel and Palestine to consider supporting:

Israel Lacrosse Association
Palestine Sports For Life
PeacePlayers Middle East
Peres Center for Peace & Innovation
Value Sports

Since our earliest days, we have seen that it is hope, hard work and courageous leadership that has made the difference in times of conflict. Our Founder, Nick Keller, has written a personal message on this that we would like to share with the Beyond Sport family:

What Will It Take To Find Hope in the Face of Hopelessness?

Several days after the events of October 7 I received an email from one of our NGO leaders asking me what Beyond Sport’s “position” was. I struggled for an answer. The truth was that I was still struggling to comprehend what had happened - as a human being.

I continue to struggle.

We stand vehemently against the Hamas terror that was inflicted on the Israeli people that day and lament the subsequent loss of innocent life of those caught in the spiral of events in Israel, Palestine and across the region.

Yet as I continue to struggle, I find in next to no time the politicisers, the antisemites and the Islamophobes that are ready to fan the flames. My son understood quicker than me. He decided that it was no longer safe to live in London in 2023 wearing his Star of David. He took it off.

So, to the person who asked me what is Beyond Sport’s position? What it has always been since we started the movement. Why? Because eventually this position is the only way out.

At the end of the first day of the first ever Beyond Sport Summit (14 years ago) a note was pushed under my door. “My name is Avraham Burg, I am Chair of Hapoel Tel Aviv football club, former leader of the Israeli Knesset and a former general in the IDF. Today I have spent four hours talking football with Jibril Rajoub (then President of Palestinian Football Association, but previously Yasser Arafat National Security Advisor). For many years we have fought against each other. We have killed each other’s family. Yet today we sat and talked football and about our collaboration for the future.”

This was an extraordinary and risky meeting for both men. They talked about how Hapoel Tel Aviv could extend its foundation so that Israeli (Arab and Jewish) and Palestinian kids could play together and how more football pitches could be funded in Palestine. Through sport they found a common language. They looked “Beyond" because at that moment they understood the power of hope.

Since that first conversation, Beyond Sport has supported numerous programmes in the region: Peres Centre For Peace & Innovation, Peace Players International and Palestine Sports For Life are just a few. When the time is right, we will lead the drive for these kinds of programmes to resume and for sport to be the inspiring tool that brings people together and gives them hope.

However, a reset like this won’t come simply through wishful thinking. It requires long-term commitment, determination and above all courage. Do we need any more evidence right now to see how painful the alternative is? To this day, Avram remains a fearless peace activist and campaigner against the settlements. Sadly, Jibril has lost the courage to chart this new path and his anti-Israel rhetoric has seen him banned by FIFA.

Which leads me to the second part of my answer to the question, “What is Beyond Sport’s position?” We need leaders that are truly capable of leading.

Some years ago, at a conference in Lausanne, I got into conversation with the man next to me at the bar. Uri Savir was an Israeli diplomat and politician. He was also one of Israel's chief negotiators of the Oslo Peace Accords (the closest Israel and Palestine have come to peace) and the co-founder of the Peres Center for Peace & Innovation.

We talked late into the night, about peace, about sport and about leadership. Uri said one thing that never left me. He said that very few leaders can bring people together. To find one on either side is to find a unicorn. He told me the then Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin (subsequently assassinated, by an extremist – a Jewish one) and Yasser Arafat (then leader of the PLO) were two of those people and that Rabin’s death would set the peace process back decades.

Which brings us to where we are today and our position at Beyond Sport. Over the last 14 years we have funded and supported programmes, NGOs and projects in some of the most hopeless and conflict-ridden places. They have transformed their communities. The two key drivers in all cases have been the decision to weaponise hope and support brave and selfless leadership.

Let’s start by reminding everyone in our community that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, in fact any form of discrimination, are unacceptable. Be aware of the damage that they do to our society. Make sure that we educate ourselves and embrace the values that ensure we will get the leaders we deserve.

Sport can play a constructive and healing role, supporting all communities as they recover from the pain that at the moment sees no end.

When the time is right, please join us, bringing hope and inspiring courageous leadership. To this position, there is no alternative.


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