memri
May 14, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 6050

Palestinian Authority Demands Israel's Suspension From FIFA

May 14, 2015
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 6050

Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association and a member of the Fatah Central Committee, recently submitted a proposal to FIFA seeking to have Israel suspended from the organization, claiming that it restricts Palestinian athletes and deliberately disrupts their activity in order to obfuscate any sign of Palestinian national identity.[1] This proposal is another in a series of moves undertaken by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to combat and isolate Israel in the diplomatic arena.

Rajoub's actions received the support of PA president Mahmoud 'Abbas, who pulled a red card against "racism" as an act of protest against "Israel's restrictions on Palestinian athletes" during a meeting with members of Global Watch, an organization against racism and discrimination in sport.


'Abbas with Global Watch founder Mosima Gabriel "Tokyo" Sexwale (Source: Paltoday.ps May 5, 2015)

This report will review Rajoub's attempts to have Israel suspended from FIFA.

FIFA To Discuss Palestinian Proposal To Suspend Israel in Late May

In March 2015 Rajoub submitted a proposal to FIFA seeking to have Israel suspended from the organization. The proposal can only be accepted with a 3/4 majority of FIFA members (156 out of 209).[2] It should be mentioned that Rajoub has been trying to have Israel suspended for two years, but has thus far been persuaded against pursuing this action by elements in FIFA.

A statement issued by the Palestinian Football Association detailed the proposal, which included several reasons for its submission: "Israel's moves in Palestinian territories prevent the development of the sport, the delivery of logistical means, and the establishment of facilities. [Israel restricts] freedom of movement within the PA territory and travel abroad, as well as the ability to host official competitions and friendly matches, and the establishment of a nationwide Palestinian league. [Israel's actions constitute] racist behavior towards Arabs and violate international law due to five Israeli clubs from 1967 settlements [i.e., settlements in the West Bank] participating in the Israeli league."[3]

Rajoub himself expanded on the Palestinian move on several occasions. Last year he called on FIFA to take steps to deal with "the colonialist, racist, and fascist occupation." He added: "I do not demand to level penalties on Israeli athletes and I do not wish to see them suffer like Palestinian athletes, but I have never heard the Israeli Football Association distance itself from its racist government's behavior towards Palestinians." According to him, Israel prevented five Palestinian team members from traveling and arrested another player to prevent his attendance at the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Cup.[4]

On May 4, 2015, FIFA announced that it received the Palestinian proposal and would discuss it at a meeting set to be held in Zurich on May 29.[5] On May 10, 2015, FIFA President Sepp Blatter met in Zurich with the heads of the Palestinian and Israeli football associations Jibril Rajoub and Ofer Eini. Blatter stated his objection to suspending Israel from FIFA since such a suspension damages the association itself. He also said he would meet in Israel with Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President 'Abbas prior to FIFA's general assembly, which would discuss the Palestinian proposal.[6]


Rajoub and Blatter (Source: Almayadeen.net, March 31, 2015)

Rajoub: Determined To Suspend Israel's FIFA Membership

In an interview with the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi on April 18, 2015, Rajoub rejected Israel's claim that restrictions on Palestinian athletes stemmed from security considerations: "How can you prevent the participation of teams and squads of 14-year-olds from Jordan and the UAE [in a tournament in the PA] for security reasons? Is this possible? [The Israelis] are trying to obfuscate any Palestinian identity, [and] to erase it and remove it from international arenas. We reject this and will oppose it. We have made the final decision to submit a proposal to suspend Israel's membership in FIFA.

"[FIFA President Sepp] Blatter is not the only one who tried to dissuade us from submitting the proposal, but we will not listen. We have listened twice before, the second time being in Brazil prior to the World Cup, but this time we will not reverse our decision... Israel must be condemned for its actions that strangle Palestinian sports because, in essence, they are meant to deny anything that represents Palestine in the international arena. You cannot allow half a squad to travel and prevent the other half from doing so until the tournament or championship is over, thus disrupting their participation."[7]

Rajoub Mobilizing Arab World, International Community To Suspend Israel From FIFA

In addition, Rajoub is attempting to recruit global support, especially from Arab countries, for this move. On April 22, 2015, several days after his interview with Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Rajoub announced at a press conference that he met with Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Arabi in Cairo and they had agreed that "an Arab committee will be established to support the Palestinian plan and get Arab [football] associations to convince global associations to support the Palestinians' rights and their proposal." Rajoub also accused the Israeli Football Association of being a partner of the "occupation army in its aggression and crimes against Palestinian people and sports."[8]

In a meeting between Arab sports ministers and Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi on April 28, Rajoub (the PA representative) updated Al-Sisi on "the suffering afflicting the field of Palestinian football due to the occupation's racism and barbarism towards players in Palestine."[9] At the end of the meeting Rajoub said that "Israel should be banished from FIFA due to its policy of terrorism and its racism towards the Palestinian people... All Arab sports ministers have agreed to support Palestine in its proposal to banish Israel from all international sports institutions until it meets our legitimate demands."[10]


Rajoub signs the proposal calling to suspend Israel from FIFA (Source: Wafa.ps)

Rajoub: Israel Is The Enemy; Fatah Will Not Relinquish The Option Of Armed Struggle

Rajoub, who was the head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force in the early years of the PA, has served as the head of the Palestinian Football Association since 2008 and his actions against Israel on this subject match his escalating hostility towards it in recent years.

Thus, for example, during a visit to Tehran in January 2014, Rajoub said: "If talks with Israel fail, Fatah will not relinquish the option of armed struggle. The option of resistance is a strategic one for Palestinians."[11] In an interview with the daily Al-Rai in March, he said: "From now on we will determine the nature of relations with Israel according to the view that the occupation is the enemy of the Palestinian people and a danger to regional stability and world peace... The honeymoon is over and it cannot be seen as anything but an enemy."[12]

In comments he made to students at the school of communication at Birzeit University, Rajoub justified the use of sports for political purposes, saying:  "Sport is an important pulpit on which to discuss our sorrow, pride, and steadfast position in light of the challenges and obstacles placed in our path by the occupation, and its crimes against sport and all members of the Palestinian people."[13]

It should be mentioned that the name of the Palestinian team, "Fidai" (meaning a fighter who sacrifices his life), also reflects the use of sport as part of the national struggle.

Endnotes:


[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), April 1, 2015.

[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), April 1, 2015.

[3] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), April 1, 2015.

[4] Honaalquds.net, June 12, 2014.

[5] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 4, 2015.

[6] Elaph.com, May 10, 2015.

[7] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), April 18, 2015.

[8] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), April 28, 2015.

[9] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), April 28, 2015.

[10] Paltoday.ps, April 29, 2015.

[11] Zamnpress.com, January 31, 2015.

[12] Alraimedia.com, March 16, 2015.

[13] Wafa.ps, April 5, 2015.

Share this Report:

MEMRI
2021 End-Of-Year Campaign