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Arsenal v Emirates: USA Take Note?
Last uploaded : Sunday 5th Mar 2006 at 22:55
Contributed by : The Editor


Last October I was on my way from King’s Cross rail station to visit an elderly retired World War II entertainer who lives in a remote North Yorkshire village. As the train passed a seedy section of Finsbury Park, I sat up in my seat as the stunning enormity of the new ‘Emirates Stadium’ met my eye. A lavish and no-expense-spared undertaking, the structure stood out like a diamond in the middle of a scrapheap. Only a short distance from the infamous Finsbury Park Mosque, home to ‘Captain Hook’ Sheikh Abu Hamza, the state-funded and now jailed terror- monger, the new stadium replaces Arsenal football ground. Anyone who knows the politics of English soccer appreciates that Arsenal has always been the sentimental favourite of Anglo-Jewish sports fans and, more recently, of the burgeoning Israeli expatriate London community. Unofficially, Israeli and Jewish/Kosher enterprises and businesses have for some time felt comfortable having this particular audience as enthusiastic customers of its products and travel packages.

Arsenal Football Club recently announced an official link to promote tourism to Israel in the stadium. In a deal worth $600,000 Israel will be promoted on electronic billboards, on banner advertisements on its website and in the club publication. The Jewish State will be hailed as Arsenal’s ‘official and exclusive travel destination.’

Now it is being reported as a Breaking Story by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and in ‘The Jerusalem Post’ that Emirates Airlines, which pays for naming rights to the stadium, has declared the deal ‘unfortunate’ and that an official of the national carrier has said they will ‘do our best to persuade Arsenal not to renew its deal with Israel.’ However, according to 'The Jerusalem Post,' the entire takeover of the club naming rights cost Emirates a cool $100 million in 2004. The Arsenal site puts the price of the Emirates Airlines naming rights at closer to $200 million. The new stadium is due to open in August.

Responding to the objections the Israeli Tourism Minister, Eli Cohen, has invited the airline's upper management to visit the country and most particularly Eilat. According to ‘The Jerusalem Post,‘ Cohen offered a visit after Dubai-based The Khaleej Times reported an Emirates Airlines official’s displeasure with the Arsenal deal.

"The Arsenal-Israel tie-up is unfortunate and we are obviously not happy. We will do our best to persuade Arsenal not to renew its deal with Israel," the spokesman said in the Post report.

Israel has no diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates, which prohibits entry of Israeli citizens to its country.

This past week the strident and influential UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign has launched an appeal to its supporters and a wide swathe of anti-Israel British groups to target Arsenal Football Club.

Here is an excerpt of the appeal:
‘Subject: Action Alert: Arsenal Football Club--URGENT

‘Arsenal Football Club supporting Israeli Apartheid
Below are just some of the benefits Israel will receive from this deal:

Israel will be featured on digital perimeter boards and 450 high-definition LCD screens at the stadium on game days;
- Israel will feature on the team's website, Arsenal.com;
- The televised ads will reach audiences in an estimated 198 countries.
- The Israeli Tourism Ministry will receive intellectual property rights, the use of the team logo and the right to use photos of the team and its players in ads.
The Israeli Tourism Minister will be allowed use of the stadium banqueting hall twice a year and organize an exhibition at the end of the playing season;
The stadium will hold permanent sale tables for Israel t-shirts

‘The financial advisers Ernst & Young were employed to draft this proposal
with the aim of bringing an extra 2 million tourists to Israel annually.

‘Arsenal FC and individual players have been in the forefront of the 'Kick Racism Out of Football Campaign'. For Arsenal to sign a deal to promoteIsrael which denies Palestinians human rights and is illegally occupying Palestinian territory is to go against the very principles of anti-racism.

‘This campaign is supported by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, \Palestinian Return Centre, Innovative Minds, the British Muslim Initiative, the Muslim Association of Britain, the Palestinian Forum in Britain, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Scottish-Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.’

‘All campaigners are urged to:

‘Contact Arsenal Football Club reminding them that Israel is a racist apartheid state which is consistently in breach of international law in its human rights abuses; and that such a deal endangers Arsenal's anti-racist reputation.’

It is important to note that the Muslim and Anglo-Palestinian groups listed are not fringe elements but mainstream, well-funded British pressure groups.

What this all adds up to is this: right now the United States is embroiled in a passionate national debate about the imminent takeover of its main Eastern ports by the United Arab Emirates. Not since 9/11 have Republicans and Democrats been so publicly united in their sentuments.

If the Emirates can take a hostile view on a business deal that reflects its core British customers (in this case the large Jewish/Israeli audience at Arsenal games) then how will it begin to influence the conduct of the American Port Authority?

Will the Emirates fire Jewish and Israeli Port Authority employees? Inasmuch as it supports the boycott of Israeli goods will it insist that American Customs inspectors open containers and sequester books, goods and other items arriving that were made in Israel? Getting down to the nitty gritty, will a collection of Made in Israel collectibles and sacred objects be quarantined when someone moves from the UK back to Philadelphia?

Notwithstanding the belief by the Israeli Tourism Ministry that the Arsenal campaign will bring an extra two million visitors of all faiths to the Jewish State, the hostility of Emirates to the advertising deal is an ominous harbinger of things to come. Should anyone, be it the US Port Authority, Arsenal soccer club or ordinary citizens come under the control of a state that considers Israel a pariah, the consequences are already making themselves felt.

Port Authority: please take note.

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