Eminent human rights advocates comprising members of the committee of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Patrons of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and others have signed the following Open Letter. It was published in the Guardian newspaper today:
“The Palestinian Football Association will present a motion to FIFA’s annual Congress on 28th-29th May, calling for the suspension of the Israeli FA. We urge delegates to pass the motion.
Palestine took to the pitch at January’s Asian Cup to standing ovations from football fans of all nations. Their very appearance at the tournament was a heroic achievement in light of the obstacles faced by the team. No thanks are due to the IFA.
It has stood shoulder to shoulder with Israel’s murderous régime while Palestinian footballers have been shot, beaten, bombed, and incarcerated along with their fellow citizens. And its only response to the day-to-day obstruction of travel, tournaments and the development of facilities has been to repeat the much-abused mantra of “security concerns”.
The IFA welcomes teams from illegal settlements into its leagues and competitions. It has racially segregated part of its national children’s league incurring legal action. It has never once disciplined Beitar Jerusalem FC for that club’s long-standing apparent ban on the hiring of Arab players, or taken serious action to curb the notorious anti-Arab violence of its supporters.
Two years of diplomacy have failed to secure change, and FIFA must now take punitive action in defence of its humanitarian ethos. Its 30-year exclusion of South Africa from its ranks provides a precedent for the action that is required. The lesson, surely, is that there can be no “positive engagement” with apartheid – only principled opposition.
FIFA owes it to all Palestinians to uphold their right to fully access football by supporting the call from the Palestinian FA for suspension of IFA.
Rev. Garth Hewitt
Sir Bob Russell
Salman Abu Sita
Baroness Jenny Tonge