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29 March 2010

Red faces over Fatah field

israel_westbank.jpgCHARITY group World Vision Australia has been embarrassed by a plan by Palestinian authorities to name a sporting complex containing an Australian-funded soccer field in the West Bank after a former militant PLO leader.

World Vision Australia funded the recently completed field in Jenin as a community project to help young Palestinians.

However, this month the authorities in Jenin announced plans to build additional sports facilities on the site and to call the planned sporting complex the Abu Jihad Youth City.

Abu Jihad, or Khalil al-Wazir, was the former commander of Fatah's armed wing. He was considered a high-profile terrorist by Israelis for plotting numerous attacks inside that country during the 1970s and 1980s.

A World Vision Australia spokeswoman said yesterday it had played no part in the naming of the proposed new complex.

"Subsequent to our work establishing the soccer field, the governor of Jenin and the ministry of youth and sport have embraced it and determined they will build additional sports facilities on the site," she said.

"The Abu Jihad Youth City is a separate initiative by the ministry, Governor and community. It was initiated after our funding of the soccer field had been completed."

The spokeswoman denied reports by Palestinian Media Watch that World Vision had financed the youth centre itself.

"World Vision Australia has just completed a two-year construction project to build a soccer field in Jenin, which has been named the Palestinian Youth Vision Soccer Field," the spokeswoman said.

"The aim of the soccer field is to involve young people in this region of the West Bank, who are frequently dealing with psychological trauma and stress, in soccer training and competition, and in sport generally, as a positive community activity . . . There is no other facility like it."

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