RCIR challenges FIFA: what has it done to curb the escalating harassment of Palestinian football?

RCIR challenges FIFA: what has it done to curb the escalating harassment of Palestinian football?

Red Card Israeli Racism sent the letter below to FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the 36 members of FIFA Council today.

Recent weeks have seen a series of violent raids by Israel on Palestinian football premises – timed to disrupt important meetings and events – during which prominent figures have been arrested and hundreds of footballers and sport students detained. At the same time Palestinian football officials have been denied permission to attend AFC and ANOC events, while Indonesian and Maldivian footballers have been denied entry to Palestine to represent their national teams and the Pakistani national team has been delayed until the last minute. Meanwhile Israel continues to freeze the development of new football facilities in Palestine.

These ugly events represent an intolerable escalation of Israel’s assault on sport. For its part, the AFC recently called upon FIFA to set up a new task force to combat Israel’s military interference in Palestinian football.

RCIR considers that we have seen enough of FIFA task forces and monitoring committees that kick Palestine into the long grass. But FIFA has a duty to act to defend Palestinian sporting rights.

So RCIR has challenged FIFA to explain itself: what has it done lately to curb the escalating harassment of Palestinian football? And what has it done to fulfil its past pledges to Palestine?

Dear President Infantino,

We write to protest the continuing harassment and obstruction of Palestinian football by the Israel Defence Forces, and to call upon you to make good your organisation’s promises to facilitate the free conduct of football in Palestine.

An alarming acceleration of abusive incidents has occurred. Some of the most serious include:

  • 10th Oct: a raid on Al-Khader Stadium, Bethlehem, during which 100 players, coaches and staff were detained for several hours
  • 1st Nov: a raid on Silwan FC during which Club Manager Muhannad Shalhab and the Governor of Jerusalem were violently arrested, and ambulances prevented from attending to treat the wounded
  • 19th/27th Nov: the arrest of Islami Qalqilya FC’s Media Spokesman Mahmoud Qashmar and its Administrative Director Zaki Daoud
  • 13th Dec: a blockade of the Joseph Blatter Football Academy, Al-Bireh – forcing cancellation of the planned inauguration of the Academy’s youth refereeing school – during which 120 students and staff were detained for several hours; the simultaneous detention of a group of coaches who were travelling to an AFC course at the Academy
  • 13th Dec: a raid of the Palestine Olympic Committee headquarters, also in al-Bireh, during a meeting of the POC’s Executive Committee; Committee members and staff were violently detained while soldiers wrought havoc in the building.

During the same period the perennial Israeli obstruction of footballers’ travel has worsened:

  • the 15th Nov friendly match between Palestine and Pakistan was delayed by a day due to the late arrival of entry visas for the Pakistan team
  • a number of Indonesian and Maldivian players were denied entry to Palestine for the AFC Women’s Olympic qualifiers of 8th to 13th Nov
  • PFA Deputy Vice-President Salah Abu Al-Atta was denied an exit visa to collect an award at the AFC annual awards in Muscat on 28th Nov
  • POC Vice-President Dr Asad Majdlawi was denied a visa to attend the 23rd ANOC General Assembly in Tokyo
  • in addition the development of new facilities continues to be frozen, as can be seen from the PFA’s two-year struggle to build a pair of artificial pitches in the face of endless bureaucratic hurdles.

None of the above are new forms of repression in Palestine but, occurring together within a few weeks, they represent an intolerable escalation of Israel’s assault on the nation’s sport. Palestinian football has made giant strides – in spite of the obstacles imposed – and does not deserve such outrageous impediments to its further progress. It is high time the international football community made it clear that it will not condone the egregious violation of Palestinian rights.

We would be grateful for the following information:

  1. What representations have you made to the government of Israel in response to the outrages listed above? What defence have you made of the right of Palestinians to pursue their cultural development freely, in line with international agreements and your own human rights policy?
  2. How have you made good FIFA Council’s promise of 27th Oct 2017 that “the FIFA administration will continue to facilitate the movement of players, officials and football equipment in, out of, and within Palestine”? Which specific units have been tasked with pursuing this goal and what measures have they undertaken to that end? How has FIFA Council monitored their progress?

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Geoff Lee
Kenny Fryde
Red Card Israeli Racism

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