Palestinians disappointed but determined after FIFA betrayal

Palestinian children hold red cards in front of Israeli occupation forces during a demonstration against the Israel Football Federation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on 29 May.

Shadi Hatem APA images

Palestinians are expressing disappointment at the abandonment and sabotage of efforts to have Israel suspended from world football’s governing body over its systematic abuses of Palestinian players.

But campaigners are vowing to continue to work to isolate Israel.

Despite repeated vows not to back down, Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, pulled a motion to suspend Israel from FIFA in what The Guardian termed “a chaotic last minute climbdown.”

Bait and switch

Instead, the delegates from 209 member countries overwhelmingly adopted a motion muscled onto the agenda by FIFA’s scandal-ridden president Sepp Blatter to create a committee to monitor Palestinian football and Israeli abuses – a sporting version of the “peace process” that has gone nowhere for decades.

Blatter’s move, just hours before he was re-elected to FIFA’s presidency, came over objections from the Palestinian officials, who thought that delegates would be allowed to vote on a motion to refer the status of Israeli clubs based in settlements in the occupied West Bank to the UN.

The Palestinians, according to The Guardian, were “comprehensively outmanoeuvred by feverish Israeli lobbying and the opposition of senior FIFA officials, including Blatter.”

Powerhouse Germany’s football association joined forces with Israel to defeat the Palestinian effort, according to Israeli media.

As this video shows, two women briefly disrupted proceedings on the congress floor, holding up red cards and a Palestinian flag and calling out slogans in support of Palestinian rights. They were hustled away by security.

“Disappointed”

Responding to today’s events, Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations that works to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, said:

“The Palestinian BDS National Committee is disappointed that the entire FIFA congress, including the Palestinian Football Association, have not lived up to their obligations and stated principles.”

“FIFA and its membership have delayed the suspension of Israel, but they cannot delay the growth of the international boycott of Israel or prevent the continued isolation of Israel because of its human rights abuses and war crimes against the Palestinian people,” Shuaibi added.

“We warmly thank the many activists and supporters of the Palestinian struggle who mobilized in support of the suspension of Israel from FIFA.”

Red Card Israeli Racism, a UK-based group that campaigns for a boycott of Israeli football bodies, has been protesting outside the FIFA congress meeting in Zurich.

“We’ve been writing letters to FIFA members, pointing out the arguments for Israel’s suspension,” Geoff Lee, a member of the campaign, told Patrick Strickland earlier this week.

Nicolas Shahshahani, an activist with EuroPalestine, told The Electronic Intifada that dozens of supporters traveled from France to join the rallies outside the FIFA congress in Zurich, the culmination of months of organizing efforts.

“Israel may punish me”

In a New York Times op-ed yesterday, Palestinian footballer Iyad Abu Gharqoud urged that Israel should be given the “red card.”

“Players, coaches and referees are blocked from moving between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and frequently are barred from tournaments,” Abu Gharqoud wrote. “Israel has also violated FIFA rules by allowing teams from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank to play in Israel’s leagues. In addition, the Israeli fans of the Beitar Jerusalem club are notorious for chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’ at matches – racist abuse that the Israel Football Association’s token disciplinary measures have failed to deter.”

“Today, our players are frequently arrested and detained,” Abu Gharqoud added. “Last year, two of our most talented young players were shot and wounded by Israeli forces at a checkpoint.”

Abu Gharqoud laid out the case for sanctioning Israel in the sports arena in the same manner as apartheid South Africa a generation ago:

“Until the day that Palestinians and Israelis are equal under the law, FIFA has a moral duty to exclude Israel from the World Cup and European Championships. Israeli officials may punish me for saying so, but it will be only through their exclusion from international soccer that Israeli citizens will realize that the subjugation of the Palestinian people comes at a growing political and cultural cost.”

The sense of disappointment over today’s debacle matched the excitement in recent days – expressed on social media – that FIFA would provide a rare venue for Israel to be held accountable.

But once again pro-Israel pressure and backroom deals punctured that hope.

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Comments

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No surprise..Jibril is PA/PLO which is Israel's lapdog- all bark and no bite for Palestinian rights and sovereignty.

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A bad reading of the events Ali.
Firstly, the Palestinian motion at the FIFA Congress was the first official international instance that Israel was put on the defendant chair right in front of the rest of the world. In itself, this is an achievement and it certainly highlighted the growing political relevance of BDS.
Secondly, as part of the 'show' Rajoub managed to 'press the charges', to detail the problems and make the world hear them.
Thirdly, the establishment of a 'monitoring committee' as a sort of controlling-judicial instance that will follow Israel's actions is important and may base similar decisions in other international bodies.
Fourthly, it is now on Rajoub to follow the operations of the 'monitoring committee' and report back to the next FIFA congress.
In no way this list can be considered as an Israeli success.
Like others, I was very excited about having that vote yesterday. But we have no evidence that confirms that the vote would have passed to suspend Israel.
A monitoring process is better than a failed vote because it can lay the ground to raise a new motion for suspension in the near future. This pressure needs to be built, and assuming that Israel will persevere in its actions, we will have better chances of winning the vote in the future.
I'm no sympathizer of the PA or its officials but to dismiss yesterday's events as a Palestinian failure is defeatism.

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there is nothing "defeatist" about being honest about those who lick the boots of the oppressors. Patience is only a virtue of the white man. kind of obvious why that is...

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Defeteasim is bad. Period.
Resistance might appear also from when you less expect, including Rajoub. 'Being honest' has nothing to do with this; one needs to look for evidence and then make conclusions.
Failing to recognise the multiplicity of resistance and change is being stuck in Bolshevikian politics and being enamoured of power.

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Good job they weren't trying to do this in Canada. We've just been hit with the news that our despicable PM, Harper, is suggesting anyone who supports boycotting or tries to boycott Israel over anything could be prosecuted under Hate Crime laws. In other words we are not allowed to voice dissent or protest Israeli government actions.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.