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Israeli Minister forces basketball body to delete ‘Palestine occupied territory’ from country listing

26th Jan 2018
Israeli Minister forces basketball body to delete ‘Palestine occupied territory’ from country listing

Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister, Miri Regev (Photo: GPO/Creative Commons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

The American National Basketball Association (NBA) removed “Palestine – occupied territory” from a list of countries on its website following a complaint from Israel’s far-right Culture and Sports Minister, Miri Regev.

In a letter to NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, on December 28, Regev called Palestine “an imaginary state” and said the listing was not in line with President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Palestine – occupied territory appeared on the NBA’s website among a list of countries in which fans can vote to choose the best US players from NBA teams to play at All-Star 2018.
Regev said in the letter that it hurts Israel and the many Israeli NBA fans. “I view the inclusion of the delusional ‘Occupied Palestine’ in the list of countries appearing on your official website as legitimatising the division of the State of Israel,” wrote Regev.

“I would like to express my disapproval and am asking you to immediately remove ‘Palestine – occupied territory’from the list of states,” she added.

The NBA’s President of Social Responsibility, Kathy Behrens, blamed a third party for the inclusion. The NBA immediately said it was not responsible for the wording of the listing and removed it.

“We do not produce the country listings for NBA.com, and as soon as we became aware of it, the site was updated. We apologize for this oversight and have corrected it,” said Behrens.

Regev thanked NBA officials for removing the listing, saying: “Israel’s lands are not occupied; therefore, what was written was false and should have been deleted.”

The move drew a storm of criticism from the public.

Twitter user Phelim Murnion wrote, “You do have to laugh at America really. Israel now has such control that it tells Americans what they can put on their own websites. And the Americans apologise for offending Israel.”

Jerusalem’s status has long been considered a final status issue to be determined by Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, and Trump’s decision is widely seen as undercutting that longstanding understanding. Under international law, East Jerusalem is considered as an occupied city.

“The NBA should erase Israel from its league, given it is in violation of international law and is an apartheid regime and illegal occupation,” said Benjamin Zac, a human rights activist.

“Let me fix this. Powerful Israeli lobby forces NBA to change its website to reflect a lie,” another activist said in a tweet.

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