The U.S. National Basketball Association Thursday night removed “Palestine — occupied territory” from its website’s list of countries after a scathing letter from an Israeli minister and condemning statements from other top officials demanding Palestine be removed, arguing that such qualification did not fall in line with the position of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev sent a strongly-worded letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver demanding Palestine be removed from the list because it is “a country everyone knows does not exist” and its inclusion in the list “hurts” Israel.
"I view the inclusion of ‘Occupied Palestine’ in the list of countries appearing on your official website as legitimizing the division of the State of Israel and as gross and blatant interference, in contrast to the official position of the American administration and the declarations of President Donald Trump, who just recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel," wrote Regev.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely also called on the NBA to take action.
"This week, U.S. Ambassador Friedman called for the cessation of the use of the term 'occupied' in regard to Judea and Samaria, and an important sports league such as the NBA should respect this view," Hotovely said using the Jewish terms for the occupied Palestinian West Bank.
Their comments confirm what many Palestinian activists argue which is that many top officials within the current Israeli government consider the West Bank as part of a greater Israeli state, which is further affirmed by the ever-expanding colonial activity of building Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territory.
The NBA later Thursday issued an apology and removed the listing with NBA's President of Social Responsibility, Kathy Behrens, telling Israel National News that country listings were provided by a third party.
“We do not produce the country listings for NBA.com and as soon as we became aware of it, the site was updated. We apologize for this oversight, and have corrected it,” Behrens said.
The news comes amid international backlash and daily protests in Palestine against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.
Palestinians as well as many in the international community agree that East Jerusalem will be the capital of a future Palestinian state within pre-1967 war borders which include the West Bank and Gaza strip.