RCIR calls on FIFA members to support Palestinian football

RCIR calls on FIFA members to support Palestinian football

Our campaign sent the following letter electronically to the Presidents and Council representatives of all FIFA member Associations prior to the 5-6 June 2019 FIFA Annual Congress.

Repression of
Palestinian Football

We write to alert you to the continuing obstruction of Palestinian football by Israel’s occupation forces and to ask you to take action at the forthcoming FIFA Congress.

On 19 December 2018 we informed the FIFA Council, see the attachment below, of the spike in violent raids of Palestinian sporting facilities, arrests of officials and obstruction of travel that had lately occurred. We asked Council to apprise us of the steps it has taken to safeguard Palestinian football in line with its past pledges and human rights policy. We have received no reply.

Since that time we have seen:

  1. 7th Jan: the arrest of PFA Vice-President Susan Shalabi on suspicion of “buying weapons on the internet” – the item in question was a camera with no possible military application. http://rcir.org.uk/?p=2605
  2. 18th Jan: a tear gas attack on Al-Khader Stadium, Bethlehem, during a match between Al-Ebeidiyah FC and Al-Doha FC. Five players required hospital treatment.  http://rcir.org.uk/?p=2596
  3. 19th April: a tournament in Jerusalem shut down by police in line with their policy of suppressing all Palestinian cultural activity in the capital city. http://rcir.org.uk/?p=2696
  4. 2 and 10 May: two clubs in East Jerusalem were invaded by Israeli forces and a “Ramadan lantern” dismantled. http://rcir.org.uk/?p=2720
  5. Artificial pitches:  The artificial pitches imported in early 2017 are still not installed due to Israeli bureaucratic delays.

These disgraceful incidents breach humanitarian law and are an attack on football itself. We urge you to use the occasion of the upcoming 69th FIFA Congress on 5th June 2019 in Paris to show your support for Palestinian football:

  • raise the issue of Palestinian sporting freedom with Council members
  • reach out to the Palestinian Football Association – let them know they do not face their troubles alone.

Thank you in advance for your defense of fair play.

Yours sincerely,

Red Card Israeli Racism campaign

Attachment:

Letter of 19 December 2018 to President Gianni Infantino copied to all
other FIFA Council Member Associatons

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.

Red Card Israeli Racism campaign

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