Football Chief: Israeli Football Association a Tool for Apartheid

ZURICH, May 28, 2015 (WAFA) – Chairman of the Palestine Football Association (PFA), General Jibril Rajoub, bashed the Israeli Football Association, which he said has turned into a tool for the Israeli political program of colonization and Apartheid.

Rajoub’s statement to the press followed a meeting with top FIFA officials in Zurich in an effort to find a solution for the protection of Palestinian football rights and the development of football in Palestine in accordance with the FIFA Statutes. The meeting was also attended by representatives from the Arab Group.

“We don’t play politics, we play football, and it’s clear instead of defending the FIFA values and regulations, the Israeli Football Association has opted to play politics and become a tool for the political program of colonization and Apartheid,” Rajoub told reporters after the meeting.

“It has always been our spirit to find a solution within the FIFA statutes rather than from without – we are not asking for anything outside of FIFA’s.”

The Arab and Palestinian delegation presented a unanimous position on certain key issues, specifically the right of Palestinian football players to the freedom of movement, the necessity of strict observation and adherence to FIFA’s zero tolerance position on racism and discrimination within football.

The delegation also insisted that five Israeli teams in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank must be banned, as they are in direct violation of international law.

The Palestinian Authority, a member of FIFA since 1998, is seeking to expel Israel from the FIFA over its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players.

The vote is scheduled for Friday and needs a two-thirds majority of the 209 members to succeed.

In a press statement issued May 19, Rajoub said that, “While Israel continues to participate in Fifa matches internationally with impunity, Palestinian football players have been shot and arrested, our football association raided by Israeli army forces, our clubs more often than not forbidden from bringing players, coaches or even materials from abroad, just as the restriction of movement imposed on our players and technical staff, within, from and to Palestine have turned the game into a real act of resistance.”

“[T]he Palestine Football Association must operate through the formal channels of the state of Israel,” a letter from the Israel FA to Fifa stated in 2013. Palestine’s response: “Each member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties [article 17-1, Fifa statute],” said the statement.

“The Israel FA not only remains silent when attacks against Palestinian sports are committed, but is complicit with the occupation, having accepted five teams from Israeli settlements internationally recognized as illegal under international law. This is also illegal under the Fifa charter, though Israel continues to be treated differently,” he added.

“We don’t need any more promises, committees or postponements that only serve to prolong our footballers’ suffering. We need actions in order to foster what football should be: a vehicle of peace, not a tool to whitewash occupation and apartheid,” said Rajoub.

He added, ‘Everyone involved knows full well that, despite everything, we have been willing to resolve this issue without having to go to Fifa’s general assembly. We have asked other confederations to interfere just as we gave a chance to the Israeli federation to solve the matter bilaterally, but nothing was solved.”

The guardian website reported, “Not long ago, Fifa president Sepp Blatter – who is on a visit to Israel/Palestine today and tomorrow – called for tougher sanctions in regard to racism within football.

In response, Rajoub said, “We have to use our rules to suspend teams, to take away their points or even to relegate them if racism continues.”

He added that individual sanctions weren’t enough – that it is necessary to ban football clubs in violation of racism and discrimination from competitions altogether, as a way to ensure their adherence to Fifa standards.

According to Fifa statute, “Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”