Category Archives: Football Under Occupation

Statement by Palestine Football Association Head Gen. Jibril Rajoub

The head of the Palestine Football Association General Jibril Rajoub left for Switzerland in order to attend the 65th FIFA Congress. Before departing he said “we are going to Zurich in order to protect Palestinian footballers and to fulfill our rights according to the FIFA Statutes. Nobody should be treated as an association above the law.”

“Our asks are clear, just and fair: Freedom of movement, end of racism and expulsion of all teams from illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine competing in the Israeli league.” Gen. Rajoub added: “Our asks are in accordance with the obligations and rights of the FIFA , and if they are not met, we will push for our resolution to be voted in the FIFA congress to suspend the Israeli Football Association. This is not a situation that we have invented but rather one that the Israeli Football Association has created.”

For more information on the Palestinian motion, please see the following link: http://pfa.ps/index.php/news/et7ad-news/1969-questions-answers-palestine-football-association-s-initiative-65th-fifa-congress-zurich-28-29-2015.html

Questions & Answers Palestine Football Association’s Initiative 65th FIFA Congress (Zurich 28 – 29, 2015)

On May 28th, a resolution presented by the Palestine Football Association (PFA) will be discussed at the 65th FIFA Congress. It proposes to suspend the Israeli Football Association (IFA) for its failure to honor its obligations under FIFA Statutes. Unfortunately the Israeli Association, and its complicity with the policies of its government, left no alternative but to submit the above mentioned proposal.

This fact sheet explains main positions and goals regarding this move.

·        Is this the first time that PFA asks FIFA to take action regarding Israeli violations and restrictions imposed upon Palestinian football?

No. After years of written complaints, PFA raised the issue at the 63rd FIFA Congress in Mauritius (2013) and at the 64th Congress of Sao Paulo, Brazil (2014). During both congresses PFA accepted a compromise to its position to suspend Israel in exchange of solutions presented by FIFA in order to facilitate the practice of football in Palestine.

·        What were the solutions presented by FIFA? Did it change the situation on the ground?

 In Mauritius it was agreed to have a bilateral mechanism between PFA and IFA, which did not produce any permanent or consistent results.

In Brazil PFA accepted a FIFA proposal to call upon the Israeli authorities to establish a mediation mechanism under FIFA’s leadership. This also failed, resulting in the resignation of the FIFA mediator (head of the Cypriot Association) after only six months due to the intransigence of the Israeli officials.

·        What is PFA’s position against IFA violations?

 1)     The Israel Football Association continues to assume, defend and justify the position of the Israeli government and occupation forces in their daily violations against the rights of Palestinian football. This is a violation of article 17-1 of FIFA statutes which clearly states that “each member shall manage its affairs independently and with no influence from third parties.”

2)     The IFA continues to organize football official activities in areas under the jurisdiction of the Palestine Football Association. This is a violation of international law and of articles 10-1, 13-1/I and 17-1 of the FIFA statutes.

3)     IFA has not tackled the issue of discrimination and racism. It has allowed Beitar Jerusalem to continue its racist stands and the presence of incitement and hate-speech against Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. The team refuses to hire Arabs or Palestinians, despite constituting 20% of Israel’s population. Supporters of the team chant “Beitar forever pure.” Only last week, IFA refused to deduct two points from Beitar Jerusalem after its fan’s incitement against a Palestinian football player in the Israeli league.

·        Is the PFA proposal mixing politics with sports?

No. PFA’s proposal is fully based in the rights and obligations that all member associations have under the FIFA statutes. Our proposal aims at taking concrete action, as stipulated by the FIFA statutes, against an Association (IFA) which is directly involved in violations of the FIFA statutes that directly affect the lives and development of football in Palestine. Acting on the same grounds FIFA suspended South Africa and Yugoslavia in 1962 and 1992 respectively. 

·        Is the FIFA Congress the appropriate venue to discuss the suspension of a member?

Yes. When a FIFA member is in violation of FIFA Statutes, particularly when it comes to accusations of being involved in racism, the Congress is the right place to discuss a suspension. In this case, the stipulated sanctions for an association involved in racism are either suspension or expulsion. The PFA is simply asking for IFA’s suspension due to its failure to meet its obligations under the FIFA Statutes.

·        The Israeli Football Association isn’t responsible for the activities of the Israeli Military in Occupied Palestine. Why is the PFA asking to suspend them?

The IFA has been acting as a tool of the Israeli occupation. While it is true that they haven’t ordered the killing, injuries and/or arrests of PFA members, or the storming of PFA stadiums and football association, they have never condemned such actions. In fact, they have justified the military actions in Palestine.

Meanwhile, IFA has accepted five teams that play in the territory of Palestine, an area that is the sole responsibility of PFA. The presence of those teams is an attempt to legitimize the illegal Israeli colonization of Occupied Palestine, a war crime under international law. The decision to keep those teams in the Israeli league is the sole responsibility of the Israeli Association.

·        Are Israeli violations documented?

Yes. PFA has a long list of ongoing Israeli violations, including limitations of movement within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Gaza, between East Jerusalem and the rest of Palestine as well as between Palestine and the rest of the world. It also includes issuance of permits for foreign delegations based on arbitrary decisions (teams that are allowed in but their coaches excluded, part of the team or even permits raised for referees), humiliating treatment at border crossings for PFA and international football officials, violent acts by Israeli Occupation Forces and racism in Israeli football matches. The presence of federated teams representing illegal Israeli settlements is also documented. FIFA has been informed of all Israeli violations.

·        What is the Palestine Football Association requesting?

PFA wants to exercise its full rights and obligations under the FIFA Statutes. This includes:

1)     IFA or Israeli authorities recognizing PFA as the sole governing body responsible for organizing and supervising football in all of the internationally recognized territory of Palestine (Article 10-1 of the FIFA Statutes).

2)     To ban all football teams from illegal Israeli settlements from participating in competitions organized by IFA; and

3)     For Israel to fully recognize that the Palestine Football Association enjoys the right of movement of football people and goods into, out of, and within Palestine including East Jerusalem; the right to develop football infrastructure in all the territory of Palestine including East Jerusalem; as well as the right to import and export sport goods in and out of Palestine.

At the same time, PFA calls upon FIFA to ensure that racism is unacceptable in the Israeli league, especially ongoing incitement and hate-speech against Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, which so far has not been a zero tolerance issue for FIFA.   

Israeli Forces Delay Palestinian National Football Team

IMG_3883 (1)On May 21, 2015, Israeli Forces delayed the Palestinian National Football Team at the Allenby/Al Karamah Crossing, the only international border for Palestinians living in the Occupied West Bank. The national team was on its route to Tunisia as part of their preparation for its upcoming official matches.

This new Israeli violation occurred less than 24 hours after Mr. Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, left Israel and Palestine, having received a commitment from Israeli PM Mr. Netanyahu about facilitating the travel of Palestinian athletes. The Israeli Football Association, as usual when Palestinian athletes are harassed by Israeli Forces, haven’t issued any condemnation.

Below is the letter sent by the head of the Palestine Football Association Gen. Jibril Rajoub to FIFA President Mr. Sepp Blatter on this new Israeli violation against Palestinian sports.

Mr. Joseph Blatter
President
Fédération Internationale de Football Association
Subject: VIP escort for Palestinian Footballers on the border

Dear President,
Dear Brother

I hope you had the time to rest after your trip to our region and the busy schedule of meetings with both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Israeli Government’s promise to facilitate the movement of our players is having its first test as I am writing this letter. Our National team, which is heading for Tunisia for a training camp, has been delayed at the Allenby crossing point by the Israeli authorities.

Player Sameh Maraabah has been detained by the Israeli authorities for two hours now, and the team has decided it will not leave without him.

The implications of this incident can only confirm the PFA’s position on the promises given by the Israeli Government; that they are only words unless they are included in solution that can only come through, and be guaranteed by the FIFA congress.

Sincerely Yours
Jibril Rajoub
President
Palestine Football Association

Israeli football cannot continue as a vehicle to legitimise racism

Op-Ed by the head of the Palestine Football Association (PFA) Gen. Jibril Rajoub published on May 19, 2015 in The Guardian.

Just over a year ago, the world watched as AC Milan footballer Mario Balotelli shed tears during a match, following repeated racist insults. The photographs were published by newspapers worldwide and Fifa was caught between club rivalry and race relations. Balotelli’s experience, however, sparked Fifa into delving deeper into sanctions regarding racism in football – but even such willingness to tackle one of the core issues facing Fifa today has been exclusionary in and of itself.
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. “We have to use our rules to suspend teams, to take away their points or even to relegate them if racism continues,” he said. 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.
We need actions in order to foster what football should be: a vehicle of peace, not a tool to whitewash occupation
One Fifa statute specifically comes to mind: “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.”
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.
Participation of a Palestinian or Muslim during a match against Beitar Jerusalem has been met with chants of “Death to Arabs” from the stands, the crowd encouraged by the failure of the IFA to properly sanction the club for its fans’ behaviour. This failure has enabled Beitar to remain a sanctuary for racism in Israel. Its fans raise banners such as “Beitar forever pure” against the hiring of any Arab players (20% of Israel’s citizens are Palestinians), and beat up Palestinians, including women and children, with neither the Israel FA or Uefa taking adequate steps to end racism in the Israeli league. On the contrary, Uefa rewarded Israel with the U21 European championship– a move Palestinians believe is a political tool to whitewash the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
If Fifa is willing to follow its own norms, there can be no question that Palestinians have the right to play. When the Israel FA could no longer exclude us from joining Fifa, they simply continued their policy to fully align with their government’s position against the right of the Palestinian people of self-determination. “[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].”
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 recognised as illegal under international law. This is also illegal under the Fifa charter, though Israel continues to be treated differently.
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.
As head of the Palestine FA, I have faced my share of restrictions and attacks at the hands of Israel, the settler-colonial occupying power determined to strip Palestinians of even our basic right to play. 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 Israeli federation has chosen to be a vehicle to legitimise racism and colonisation rather than one representing Fifa values.

In response to President Blatter’s recent remarks to the Confederation of African Football Congress, we ask Fifa to act accordingly by suspending Israel’s membership from Fifa until it respects the values and principles that Fifa promotes and stands for.

Link to the article: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/19/israeli-football-cannot-continue-vehicle-legitimise-racism