Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Palestinian Cup final postponed after travel permits declined

By F.F. Dawkins - July 09, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Football]

The final of the Palestine Cup, the leading national football event of Palestine, was postponed because the majority of the Gaza football team did not obtain the necessary travel permits to enter the West Bank.

The first leg of the final on 30 June between the clubs, Khadamat Rafah and Balata FC, the champions of the Gaza and West Bank league, had taken place in Gaza and ended 1:1. The second round was initially scheduled for the 3 July in the West Bank.

When the team of Khadamat Rafah applied for the travel permits, only four out of 35 permits were granted. According to a PFA press release the four persons who were approved, included the club president, vice president, one doctor and one player.

Susan Shalabi, the vice president of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), told AFP that “The Israelis are very adamant in their refusal”.

The office for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, COGAT, a unit of the Israeli defence ministry responsible for Palestinian civil affairs responded in a statement that “Although the application was untimely and therefore made appropriate processing pursuant to the clear guidelines impossible, COGAT went beyond that which was required of it, and, by means of all of the relevant parties, carefully reviewed the application”.

Furthermore, according to the COGAT, five members of the delegation have been approved after an extensive security check. The greater majority of the team was not accepted as a result of security considerations.

Palestinians are obliged to apply for travel permits to transit Israel to enter the West Bank or Gaza Strip. The bureaucratic process of the permit application is known for being intransparent and arbitrarily. According to a recent study, around 19 per cent of all requested permits, including working and medical treatment permits, are declined.

However, in the past, the football tournament had to postpone matches, because they were not able to obtain permits for players, especially for players from clubs in Gaza. After the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the Palestinian Cup did not take place for 15 years. Only since the intervention of the FIFA in the year 2015, the tournament started to take place again.

Following the interruption of the final, Palestinian Athletes protested in the Gaza Strip. The protesters gathered in front of the UN headquarter and demonstrated against the restrictions put on Palestinian athletes by the Israeli government.

The PFA is currently facing a difficult time, not only because of the restrictions by the Israeli authorities. A recently leaked confidential letter reveals that FIFA’s ethics committee opened an investigation against the head of the PFA, Jibril Rajoub. The document of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA states that Rajoub is accused amongst others claims, of the “promotion and glorification of terrorism” as well as “incitement to hatred and violence”. The initial complaint was made by the Israeli organisation Palestinian Media Watch in 2017.

On top of this new claim, Rajoub was banned from football matches for 12-months and additionally received a fine in the amount $20,600 by the FIFA in 2018 for “inciting hatred and violence”.

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