RCIR has challenged the Homelessness Football World Cup organisation to reconsider the inclusion of an Israeli team. Israel has an utterly appalling record of creating homelessness. Participation in this event gives the impression that Israel cares about homelessness, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This is clear normalisation.
One of RCIR’s activists has great experience in homelessness and has written to the Homelessness World Cup organisation as follows:
I am writing to express my dismay that Israel is allowed to participate in this event.
I have worked in the homeless field for over thirty years and know how effective the approach used by the Homeless World Cup can be. Given this, I am astonished that an organisation with aims such as yours accepts Israel as a National Partner. It has been well documented, including at the UN’s Human Rights Council and within UN Treaty Bodies, that Israel’s long term policy of demolishing Palestinian houses, evicting Palestinian families, and confiscating their land for the construction of Jewish-only Israeli settlements (now with over 600,000 inhabitants) are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
This destruction of Palestinian homes and in some cases entire villages has deliberately caused mass homelessness throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), comprising East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. This policy is effectively ethnic cleansing. (1)
In the OPT, over 46,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished since 1967. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, during Israel’s military offensive in Gaza in summer 2014, over 520,000 people were made homeless due to the destruction of homes by bombing from land, sea and air. One year on at least 100,000 Gazans are still living in rubble because not one of the totally destroyed homes has been rebuilt. (2)
The Jerusalem Municipality has openly declared its commitment to reducing the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem to a third of its total inhabitants. Traditional Palestinian neighbourhoods have relentlessly been replaced by Jewish settlements, the latest targets being Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. The basis for evictions of Palestinians is invariably flimsy and would not stand up to international standards and conventions.
Within the state of Israel itself, more than 52,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished, most within the first few years of its founding. However Israel’s racist policies continue and some years there are up to three times the number of house demolitions within Israel than in the OPT. At present, more than 70,000 Bedouins from the Negev, Israeli citizens, are threatened with the demolition of their homes and the resulting displacement.
In the context of football, moreover, it is even more inexplicable that Israel is allowed to participate in this event, given Israel’s record of hindering the development of football in Palestine. Unique among FIFA’s 209 countries, one member (Israel) prevents another member (Palestine) from playing to its full potential. Hence, at its Congress in May 2015, FIFA set up a monitoring group to investigate Israel’s footballing abuses. Below are examples:
1. Restriction on movement of players and officials: several players were prevented from joining the Palestinian team during the Peace Cup played in the Philippines in September, 2014, as well as the finals of the Asian Cup in Australia in January, 2015.
2. Restrictions on the development of infrastructure including stadium and practice facilities. A FIFA Goal projects involving building a new stadium was stopped. On 20 August 2015, an Israeli court ordered the demolition of a football field and facilities at Silwan in East Jerusalem.
3. Restrictions and taxing of imported equipment.
4. Severe human rights abuses against players. National team member Mahmoud Sarsak was imprisoned for three years without charge and only released after a hunger strike and intervention by FIFA, UEFA and international stars
5. Racist policies and attitudes in some Israeli clubs towards Palestinian or other Arab players.
Given the above, it beggars belief that Israel is a National Partner in the Homeless World Cup. I urge you to reconsider Israel’s status.