Wembley Stadium’s iconic arch, a symbol of global events and causes, has been lit up on several occasions to mark significant events.
However, the recent controversy surrounding the Football Association’s (FA) decision to refuse lighting it in honor of Israelis killed by Hamas has drawn widespread criticism and condemnation.
Wembley’s Arch Illuminations: A History:
Over the years, Wembley’s arch has been illuminated for a variety of events. It has paid tribute to victims of the Bataclan attack in Paris, marked the invasion of Ukraine, celebrated the LGBTQ+ community, supported NHS workers, and commemorated Pele’s passing.
Each of these instances reflects a gesture of solidarity and remembrance.
The FA’s Refusal: A Divisive Stand:
The controversy stems from the FA’s refusal to light the arch in the Star of David colors to remember the at least 1,300 Israelis, including babies and children, who were brutally murdered in a surprise attack by Hamas.
Critics argue that this decision is inconsistent with the FA’s past actions, particularly concerning issues like LGBT rights and Black Lives Matter.
Public Outrage and Criticism:
The FA’s decision has provoked outrage from various quarters. Jewish groups have labeled it “utterly shameful” and “spineless” for not standing by Israel, while MPs expressed their fury.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Tory party chairman Lee Anderson have openly criticized the FA’s stance, emphasizing the importance of standing with Israel.
Community and International Response:
Jewish organizations, including the Chelsea Jewish Supporters Group and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, have expressed their disappointment in the FA’s response, emphasizing the need to speak out against terrorism.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on Wembley to display the flag of Israel to show solidarity.
FA’s Explanation: Avoiding Divisiveness:
The FA has justified its decision by stating that it wishes to avoid being perceived as taking sides in the Middle East conflict.
Senior FA officials reportedly fear that displaying the Israeli flag could be divisive. The move is in stark contrast to the unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist atrocity by the Royal Family.
The controversy surrounding Wembley’s arch illumination for various causes and the FA’s refusal to honor Israel’s tragedy highlights the challenges of balancing political sensitivities with gestures of remembrance and solidarity.
The debate continues over whether the FA’s decision is justified or a missed opportunity for a show of support.