Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Capitulating to Israeli pressure, FIFA continues to delay decision on settlement clubs

By Ayesha Khan - May 16, 2017
Section: [Main News] [BDS]
Tags: [Football] [settlements]

The international football body FIFA decided last week to once again postpone a decision on the future of six Israeli settlement teams at its congress meeting in the Bahraini capital Manama. The congress voted 138-50 in favour of the issue being postponed until October.
The Palestine Football Association (PFA) submitted a letter on May 15, 2015 requesting to have FIFA stop all Israeli football activity in occupied territory. Palestinians wanted FIFA to suspend the Israeli Football Association if it failed to relocate six teams based in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. A monitoring committee was set up, headed by anti-apartheid South African minister Tokyo Sexwale.
Palestinian sports clubs, human rights organizations, and secretary-general of PLO’s Youth and Sports Department, Husam Arafat (along with 66 members of the European Parliament) have come forward in support for the Palestinian bid.
Palestinians have argued that settlement teams violate the FIFA Statutes that prohibit team members from playing without consent from the team whose grounds the game is taking place at. Settlements are considered illegal under international law, as reiterated in a UN Security Council resolution passed last December. Allowing settlement football teams to continue playing, Palestinians have argued, makes FIFA complicit in violating international law.
Enough of the stonewalling,” said Human Rights Watch in a statement. “Continuing to sponsor games on stolen land flouts the human rights commitments FIFA so recently reaffirmed.
Israel argues that settlements are not illegal since they are in “disputed” territory where there is no official Palestinian border.

To fulfill its human rights responsibilities, FIFA should require its affiliate, the Israel Football Association, which is conducting business in unlawful settlements that are off-limits to Palestinians, to move all FIFA-sanctioned games and activities inside Israel,” stated Human Rights Watch in a report last year, which pointed out that the issue is not a mere dispute between the Israeli and Palestinian football associations, but that FIFA itself is also guilty of sponsoring games that facilitate economic activity in occupied territory.
Through pressurizing recently elected president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, Israel lobbied to avoid suspension of its membership, despite the demand to have Israeli teams of Ariel (two clubs), Beitar Givat Ze’ev Shabi, Beitar Ma’ale Adumim (one of the highest populated settlements), Hapoel Oranit, and Tomer suspended. Haaretz reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu placed a call to Infantino to convey his opposition towards the proposal regarding the suspension of Israeli teams based in the settlements.
Despite the creation of the FIFA monitoring committee Israel-Palestine in 2015, no decision has been reached previously due to the continued delays.
“We fear Mr. Infantino’s action of today has set a precedent where governments decide the agenda for a FIFA congress, and violations of the statutes and misuse of its legal devices become so common in a way that encourages those who allow football to be used as a tool to normalize oppression,” said a statement from the PFA.



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