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Basketball NBA bows to Israeli pressure to axe Palestine from list of countries

THE US National Basketball Association (NBA) has bowed to Israeli pressure and removed Palestine from its listing of countries on its website.

The NBA issued a grovelling apology to Israel on Thursday for including “Palestine – occupied territory” in its list of countries for a poll for fans’ favourite “country of origin” for NBA players.

Israeli Sports Minister Miri Regev had sent a vitriolic letter to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, complaining that the country listing did not match the pronouncements of US President Donald Trump.

“I view the inclusion of ‘occupied Palestine’ in the list of countries appearing on your official website as legitimising the division of the state of Israel and as gross and blatant interference, in contrast to the official position of the [US] administration and the declarations of President Donald Trump, who has just recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Regev wrote.

Regev further said that Palestine was “a country everyone knows does not exist” and that Palestine’s inclusion in the poll’s list “hurt” Israel and “distorted” reality.

The NBA’s president of social responsibility Kathy Behrens said: ““We do not produce the country listings for NBA.com and as soon as we became aware of it, the site was updated. We apologise for this oversight and have corrected it.”

While Palestine does not have formal statehood as such, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem are not part of the state of Israel and for the past 50 years have been occupied militarily by Israeli forces.

The acquisition of territory by force, as Israel has done — not only in Palestine but also in Syria and previously Lebanon — is illegal under international law.

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