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NBA apologises over reference to 'occupied' Palestine

NBA removes 'occupied' from description of Palestinian territories after Israeli minister calls Palestine 'imaginary state'
Last year, the UN Security Council condemned occupation of Palestinian territories (Reuters)

North America's National Basketball Association (NBA) apologised on Friday for describing the Palestinian territories as "occupied" on its website, bowing to pressure from Israeli right-wing politicians who objected to the description.

Although Israel's sports minister, Miri Regev, claimed victory for removing the description after she had called Palestine an "imaginary 'state'," contrary to various media reports, "Palestinian territories" is still an option for the location of voters on a poll for picking NBA All-Stars.

"Israeli minister gets 'Palestine' removed from NBA site," a Fox News headline erroneously reads.

Regev had written a letter to the NBA commissioner Adam Silver bemoaning the mention of Palestine on the sports league's website, citing US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"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," she wrote.

Following the NBA's apology, Regev thanked the basketball league, saying: "Israel's lands are not occupied; therefore what was written was false and should have been deleted."

However, Palestine was not removed as an option, effectively contradicting the Israeli minister's claim that the West Bank and Gaza - territories that Palestinians want for their state - are "Israel's lands".

Nevertheless, the NBA's president of social responsibility, Kathy Behrens, issued an apology for recognising the Palestinian territories as occupied.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in 1967. Last year, the UN Security Council condemned the occupation of Palestinian territories, where Israel continues to build illegal settlements.

"We do not produce the country listings for, and as soon as we became aware of it the site was updated. We apologise for this oversight, and have corrected it," Behrens said in a statement.

Regev, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, once called African asylum seekers in Israel a "cancer".

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