From 19 to 26 November twelve countries will participate in the World Team Chess Championship. Hosted by Israel the tournament is meant to take place in occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, presented by chess federation FIDE as part of ‘Israel’. The Rights Forum calls for relocation of the event to The Hague.
The combination of sports and human rights has recently been a prominent focal point due to the fate of the laborers who built the infrastructure for the World Football Championship in Qatar. Lessons learned? Not in the world of chess. While the soccer world promised to pay more critical attention to human rights compliance, World Chess Federation FIDE is doing exactly the opposite by granting Israel the organization of a major tournament in occupied East Jerusalem.
Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been living under a strangling Israeli military occupation for 55 years, seeing their city being taken over by the occupier. By 2020 Israel had settled 230,000 civilians in East Jerusalem. In an effort to normalize this illegal situation, Israel will be hosting the international chess tournament in the occupied city. Participating countries are Azerbaijan, China, France, India, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Ukraine, USA, Uzbekistan and host nation Israel.
Under Israeli occupation the human rights of the Palestinian residents are violated across the board. Under the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, the Israeli colonization is considered a war crime. All of this is taking place under an Israeli-imposed regime of apartheid, which is considered a crime against humanity. Organizations such as the UN – and human rights organizations in Palestine, Israel and around the world – have been calling for years not to contribute to this injustice.
Palestinians fiercely protest the tournament, calling on the World Chess Federation FIDE to adhere to its own charter – that includes respect for and protection of human rights and rejection of all forms of discrimination (as per Article 4) –, and to reschedule the tournament without delay. National federations and individual chess players are urged not to participate in the event if FIDE stands by its plan to play in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Rights Forum stands in solidarity with the Palestinian protest. Under international law Israel must abandon its occupation, illegal colonization and apartheid policies in East Jerusalem and the other occupied territories. Efforts to the opposite – normalizing and expanding the unjust situation – are off-limits by any standard, also for sports associations and sportsmen.
The Rights Forum calls on FIDE to relocate the tournament, suggesting The Hague as a fitting alternative. Home to the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and over a hundred rights-based organizations, The Hague provides the perfect setting for players to concentrate on the game in freedom and without being distracted by the violence going on a block away, as will be the case in East Jerusalem.
Based in the Netherlands ourselves, we call on the Dutch chess association KNSB to energize this process by declaring the present location unfit and inadmissible, while offering a safe and unoccupied alternative. Lastly, we call on international media, human rights organizations and other groups to shed light on the shameful tournament and help amplify the Palestinian protest.