At the very last minute on 29 May, amidst a mêlée around the congress hall dais, PFA president Jibril Rajoub withdrew the PFA proposal to suspend the Israeli FA from FIFA. Instead, he submitted an amendment (full text below) to his proposal to rescue some promised benefits for Palestinian football which had been the subject of the original proposal.
In essence, it involves establishing a Monitor Group of International Observers working under the rules of FIFA’s Ethic, Legal and Discrimination committee. This should be more effective than the 2013/14 FIFA Task Force. It is tasked to ensure PFA freedom to develop its football, to identify and respond to racism inside Israeli football, and to answer the question of settlement clubs playing in Israeli leagues. The preamble explicitly highlighted the unacceptable restrictions on movements of players.
In his speech Rajoub criticised the Israelis very directly and advised the IFA to complain to its government. He said that he was swayed by many comments about not setting a precedent for suspension of a member. Since South Africa and other nations have been suspended in the past, that argument will need to be countered in future.
Rajoub can be accused of naïveté in expecting the Israelis to respond to this form of FIFA control. But the Israelis can more publically than ever be held to account. If they fail, then as Rajoub said, the suspension proposal has not been dropped, just suspended.
In fact, this saga says more about Blatter than about Rajoub. Blatter has worked hard in opposition to the PFA proposal, in conjunction with the Israelis, in this his last major political action before announcing his resignation. While he has pushed the Israelis to make concessions, the pressure on Israelis to act is far less than it would have been had they been first suspended from FIFA. Throughout discussions, Blatter has demonstrated his corrupt, manipulative skills to the great disadvantage of Palestinian football.
1) At meetings with the Asian and African federations and FIFA before the Congress, it became clear that Blatter had lined up all those countries to oppose the PFA proposal. This paralleled his efforts to obtain support for his own election as president. Football didn’t seem to count, only the maintenance of the links that had been established through FIFA’s largesse. As a consequence there was no possibility of the PFA proposal obtaining the required 75% majority.
2) Congress delegates did not receive the text of the PFA’s proposal with the agenda ahead of the Congress. During the Congress, the text of the amendment was not distributed and only parts were read out in summarised form by Blatter. Some specific, related suggestions by FIFA were shown on the screen. The PFA objected to this improper process, but to no avail. The amendment was passed by 165 to 18 votes and the PFA expects the minutes to include their amendment in full detail.
It was disappointing for many activists worldwide to see once more that the Israelis can continue to act without being subject to major sanctions. However, with Blatter’s resignation and closer scrutiny of FIFA’s operation, it may be possible for the PFA’s arguments to be handled more honestly in future.
FIFA’s live broadcast is available on Youtube: REPLAY: FIFA 65th Congress 2015 – Part 2 – YouTube, hours 1.21 to 2.03 with Rajoub’s speech at the beginning. His comments were reported by Ma’an News Palestinian football chief defends FIFA move.
A supportive article was written by Amira Hass in Haaretz: Palestinian FIFA move hit an Israeli nerve – Diplomacy and Defense – – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News and there is a good article on the issue in Middle East Eye http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/game-fear-israel-fifa-and-threat-isolation-279838523. Criticisms were made in MEMO Never mind Israel, it’s time to show the red card to the PA and Electronic Intifada Palestinians disappointed but determined after FIFA betrayal | The Electronic Intifada and some other media outlets.
This result will not effect our campaign’s call for suspension of the IFA from FIFA and UEFA. We are calling for suspension until general societal conditions are fulfilled, viz Israeli respecting the human rights of Palestinians and observing international law. The PFA’s proposal was more limited as it was only calling for IFA suspension until four specific football-related conditions were satisfied. We have to respect the PFA’s right to make its own decisions on football-related matters while at the same time holding firm to our own broader objectives.
We will need to redouble our efforts to expose Israeli racism in football by demonstrating, lobbying and explaining what is unknown to many.
Full text of the Amendment to the Proposal Presented by the Palestine Football Association
In order to end the suffering and discrimination of our Palestinian football family at the hands of the illegal and racist occupation of our land, we have presented a proposal for a final solution. After several meetings with Mr. Blatter, Mr. Valkce, and representatives from different confederations and associations, with the aim to facilitate the feasibility and implementation of our proposal, we have made the following clarification.
The proposal stipulates 3 main concerns of the PFA in regards of IFA violations of FIFA Statutes, including:
1. Restrictions of Palestinian rights for the freedom of movement. Players and football officials both within and outside the borders of the occupied State of Palestine, have been systematically restricted from their right to free movement, and continue to be hindered, limited, and obstructed by a set of unilateral regulations arbitrarily and inconsistently implemented. This constitutes a direct violation by IFA of Article 13.3 of the FIFA Statute, specifically in relation to Article 13.1(i) and its correspond articles in UEFA rules;
2. The continued racism and discriminatory behaviour of IFA officials and clubs in direct violation of not only the principles of FIFA, (including FIFA’s no-tolerance policy against racism and discrimination) but specifically in violation of Article 3 of the FIFA Statute and corresponding UEFA rules; and
3. The grave concern over at least five Israeli clubs located in illegal settlements in the occupied State of Palestine. The presence of the Israeli clubs, located in territory recognized by the international community as part of the State of Palestine, constitutes a direct violation of Articles 83 and 84 of the FIFA Statutes, including relevant UEFA rules.
As a viable and effective resolution to the above issues and violations of FIFA Statutes, it is proposed that:
- FIFA will appoint a multi-lateral monitor group to work directly under the rules of the FIFA Ethics, Legal, and Discrimination committees, and will be composed of International Observers;
- The monitor group will ensure the freedom of the PFA to develop its activities at the highest level possible, and be in accordance with FIFA requirements and standards, with special attention to Article 3 of FIFA Statutes and under FIFA’s objectives as described in article 2 of the said Statutes;
- The monitor group will supervise the possible infringement of FIFA rules by IFA and their clubs, with special attention to Article 3 of FIFA Statutes;
- The Congress, if approved by a majority as established under Article 27.6 of FIFA Statutes, and based on its prerogatives under article 14.1 of the said Statutes, will act in accordance with Articles 83.2 and 84 of FIFA Statutes. If shown to be true that these Israeli teams discussed are based on, and playing out of occupied Palestinian lands, the Israeli Football Association will face the consequences of Article 14.1 in relation to Articles 13.1 and 13.2, ; and
- In order to prove the territorial issue, which will be the basis for any measures implemented by FIFA statutes, FIFA will request the United Nations to officially notify FIFA of UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19.