More than 100 sports associations, trade s, human rights organizations and faith based groups from 28 countries joined football champions, scholars, film directors, politicians and government officials in calling on FIFAâ€™s Council members to insist that Israelâ€™s national football league revoke the affiliation of seven clubs based in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, or face suspension from FIFA.
The signatories, according to WAFA, delivered their letter to FIFA Council members ahead of FIFAâ€™s upcoming 67th Congress on May 10-11.
They include former UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, former Brazilian Minister for Human Rights Paulo SĂ©rgio Pinheiro, South African Communist Party Central Committee Member and Minister of Sports & Recreation Thulas Nxesi (signed in his personal capacity), renowned British filmmakers Ken Loach and Paul Laverty, former Peruvian football champion Juan Carlos Oblitas Saba and former athlete and President of Peruâ€™s Congress Daniel Fernando AbugattĂˇs Majluf, and the Brazilian trade CUT with over 7.4 million members.
The letter criticizes FIFA for repeated delays and selective enforcement of its own rules which prohibit any member federation from holding matches on the territory of another without the latterâ€™s approval.
The Israeli national league is clearly violating FIFAâ€™s own rules by holding matches in occupied Palestinian territory against the wishes of the Palestinian federation.
For some unknown reason, the Congress’ agenda does not include the report from FIFA’s own Monitoring Committee, which was established in 2015 to find a solution. However, the Palestinian Football Association has tabled its own motion.
The letter exposes FIFA for running afoul of its own recent commitment to respect and promote internationally recognized human rights.
â€śThis laudable goal will be judged by the extent of its implementation in real-life contexts,â€ť states the letter, noting it will be a tragedy for all and a poor commentary on FIFA if its newly-declared policy â€śfalls at the first hurdle.â€ť
Juan Carlos Oblitas Saba, the Athletic Director of the Peruvian Football Federation and a retired football champion who represented Peru dozens of times on the international stage, said: â€śFIFA’s position concerning human rights should be as transparent as possible, and no country can be above the United Nationsâ€™ rulings on the [Israeli] settlements invading the Palestinian Territories. I have dedicated my entire life to football, I have never intervened in politics, but this goes beyond the pale, especially with respect to the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.â€ť
At a recent event in Johannesburg, South African Parliamentarian and member of the South African Parliament Football Club, P.J. Mguni, said: â€śApartheid Israel must be banned from FIFA international events and isolated because sports boycott against inhumane and unfair sports could go a long way to restoring peace and dignity in that region especially for the Palestinian people…our fellow South Africans must understand that the international community constituted a great part of our support systems in terms of the international isolation of apartheid South Africa back before 1994. In the same manner oppressed people anywhere are part of us, so as South Africans from all corners we must really support people who are still struggling for emancipation like the Palestinians are doing under the notorious Israel apartheid state.â€ť
Hind Awwad from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel said: â€śIsrael is using ‘the beautiful gameâ€™ to whitewash its violations of international law and human rights, and FIFA is shamefully standing by allowing this to happen, damaging its own reputation. FIFA must realize that Palestinian and international human rights defenders will not abandon their legitimate demand for FIFA to ultimately suspend the Israeli Football Association due to its inclusion of Israeli settlements clubs based on stolen Palestinian land, and to Israelâ€™s routine targeting of Palestinian sports, deliberate destruction of football stadiums and arrest, torture and restriction of movement of Palestinian athletes.â€ť
Geoff Lee from Red Card Israeli Racism (UK), said: â€śGetting rid of racism in football will help eliminate the tragically high level of racism practiced by the Israeli state. Israeli laws, military actions and bureaucratic obstacles repress Palestinian football as well as the whole Palestinian community. Sanctions are needed to generate change. We demand FIFA sanctions Israel by suspending the Israeli Football Association from FIFA and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), until Israel observes international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians.â€ť
Chris Carlson is a student of religion at Mount Mercy University, United States, and has been a regular volunteer with the IMEMC since 2013. He assisted in providing extensive coverage of the 2014 Israeli military offensive on the Gaza Strip and continues, into the present day, with the issues at hand. He can be reached via email at c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g.