Palestine’s Paralympics II

Here’s some pictures from the reception held yesterday evening in Parliament Square, Westminster, London, for the Paralympian team, their coaches, officials and supporters. (See Britain Opens its Doors...3 September, below.)

Fannouna, Zakout, the Palestinian Ambassador, and the Palestinian Paralympic Chairman, along with Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, listening to a tribute from the Liberal Democrat’s Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes.

It was sponsored by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and the Palestinian Ambassador, Manuel Hassassian, and addressed by Murad Qureshi, a member of the London Assembly (see Palestine’s Olympic Triumph II, 30 July, below), who described the tribulations of trying to enter Gaza on his first-ever trip to Palestine, as well as the hassles he encountered at the airport in Cairo! Continue reading


Britain Opens its Doors…and Hearts…to Palestine’s Paralympians

Half-way through the Paralympic 2012 Games in London, Palestine’s two participants, 47-year-old Khamis Zaqout and 32-year-old Muhammed Fannouna, are being feted and celebrated by the great and the good, as well as the huge, enthusiastic audiences who are turning out to watch them compete in the shotput, discus, javelin, long-jump, 100- and 200-metre athletics events. While Zaqout fell just 4 centimeters (!!!) short of taking a bronze medal in the shotput last Friday, team officials remain confident that there will be a Palestinian on the podium by the end of the Games on 9 September.

The athletes, their coaches, and the Chairman of the Palestinian Paralympic
Committee, Akram Okkeh, toured the British Parliament on Thursday, 30 August.
Photo: UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Tonight, a special, high-level reception is being held for the team at London’s Portcullis House in Westminster, across from the Houses of Parliament and “Big Ben.” Politicians, diplomats, officials, journalists, activists, supporters and members of the public have been invited by MP Jeremy Corbyn and the Palestinian Ambassador, Professor Manuel Hassassian, to cheer them on, and to help put Palestine “on the map” at a time when the world’s eyes are once again on London. (Corbyn hosted another reception in July at the London Assembly for the Palestinian Olympic team. See “Palestine’s Olympic Triumph II”, 30 July, below.) Continue reading

Palestine’s Olympic Triumph III – Woroud!

As one of the five Palestinian athletes competing at the Olympics here in London (plus two others in the Paralympics later this month), Woroud Sawalha said it all, after she competed in the 800-metre track event today. Although finishing last in her heat, she told Toronto’s Globe and Mail, “My target was to make a new record for myself and for Palestine. I got it!”

Woroud Sawalha runs in her women’s 800-metre, round one heat at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday, 8 August. Picture: Reuters.

A 20-year-old university student from Asira ash-Shamaliya, near Nablus, she has had to train in places like Egypt, Qatar and Jordan because of the lack of suitable facilities in Palestine. Undaunted, she says that her experience in London is just the beginning. “I hope I will do well in the future. The Olympic Games is a first step for me.”

With each of her fingernails decorated with a tiny Palestinian flag, she adds that “My dream is to do something for Palestine and to show the world that Palestine deserves to live and stand on the podium.”

Congratulations to Maher, Sabine, Ahmed and Baha, too, their coaches and officials who helped to put Palestine “on the map,” in one of the world’s most exciting, and inspiring, events!


© Pamela Ann Smith
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Palestine’s Olympic Triumph

Even before the opening ceremony here in London tonight, Palestine’s Olympic team has triumphed. Not only does the team of five include the first-ever athlete, judoko Maher Abu Rmeilah, to pass the stringent qualification tests, the group of five, their coaches and Palestine Olympic Committee officials are winning hearts, and minds, in one of the world’s largest, and most sophisticated, cities. Over the next two weeks, as some 4 billion people around the world follow the Games, the team, whose first event starts Saturday, 28 July, can expect to score even more victories as they help to put Palestine “on the map.” (See the schedule, below.)

Palestinian judoka Maher Abu Rmeilah, who trains at the Al Quds sports club in East Jerusalem. Photograph: Gail Tibbon, The Guardian

Not long after their arrival in the capital, the group was met by a huge crowd in the west London borough of Hounslow, as it hosted the Olympic torch relay, on the final days of its tour around 95 per cent of Great Britain. Hounslow is twinned with Palestine’s administrative capital, Ramallah, and both the borough’s mayor, Councillor Pritam Grewal, and its residents seemed eager to combine their moment in the UK’s spotlight with the team. Scores of pictures were taken as Palestine’s athletics coach, Majed Abu Marahil, officially presented the Mayor with a gift on behalf of all Palestinians. On Friday, the Olympians were received by about 60 enthusiasts at no less a centre of attention than London City Hall itself.

Palestinian Olympic athletes and officials joined the Mayor of Hounslow, Councillor Pritam Grewal, on Tuesday, 24 July, to welcome the Olympic torch to the London borough. Credit: Hounslow Ramallah Twinning Association.

The team consists of Abu Rmeilah, and four others who have been invited by the International Olympic Committee: Baha Al-Farra, a 400-metre runner; Woroud Sawalha, an 800-metre runner; Sabine Hazboun, a 50-metre freestyle swimmer and Ahmed Jibril (Ahmed Gebril, in Egyptian), who is also competing in the 50-metre freestyle swimming. Like all of his teammates, Al-Farra, who lives in Gaza, has had to train despite the lack of proper facilities and financial resources, as well as Israel’s restrictions on movement in East Jerusalem and the occupied territories, a situation that means many cannot reach their full potential. But he is happy to be representing his nation.

Sabine Hazboun and Ahmed Jibril, both competing in the 50-meter freestyle swimming. Picture courtesy of

“It’s a beautiful feeling, both as an athlete and a Palestinian,” he told The Guardian in London. “I will be taking a message from the Palestinians to the greatest games on earth: that Palestine exists despite our difficult circumstances.” Continue reading

Editor’s Note

InvestPalestine was busy in June with a consultancy project for a group of potential investors from the Arab world. So apologies for the delay in posting new articles!

Once again, thanks to all our readers — and followers — who, at present, span the globe from the US, Canada, the UK and Australia to France, Germany, Denmark, Russia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Arab Gulf states, Brazil and Chile, as well as Israel and Palestine.

Nader Al Masri carrying the flag for Palestine at the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing, 2008. Photo courtesy of the International Olympics Committee.

If you would like more information, subscribe to our email service (see the box at the top right of the home page), or email the editor directly. (See “Contact” on the top menu.)

As always, we LOVE your feedback and comments!

Coming up this July:

An analysis of the banking and private sector’s difficulties and the implications for production and employment;

A report on foreign (direct and portfolio) investment in the West Bank and Gaza;

A survey of Palestine’s agricultural potential;

And, last but not least, we’ll be highlighting the progress of five Palestinian athletes from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as they prepare to fly the flag at the Olympics here in London at the end of July…PLUS a report on a very brave and determined man, Hussam Fares Azzam, a champion in world Paralympics…AND Palestine’s remarkable achievements in football (WOMEN and men!).

Suzanne Al Houby: The first Palestinian (and Arab) woman to climb Mount Everest. Photo courtesy of The Electronic Intifada (EI).

Oops, I forgot Palestine’s (and the Arab world’s first) woman to conquer Mount Everest, Suzanne Al Houby.

Thanks for looking!