As the Trump administration’s heavily criticised “Peace and Prosperity” investment conference began – despite a unanimous Palestinian boycott – in the Bahraini capital, Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub wrote to FIFA’s Gianni Infantino urging him not to attend.
President Infantino is scheduled to speak at the US-sponsored event, designed to persuade Palestinians of the financial benefits on offer should it accept the terms of Trump’s “deal of the century” – the right-wing administration’s long delayed diplomatic solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict which has been described by the PLO’s Saeb Erekat as comprising “the liquidation of the Palestinian cause”.
“How can the president of the highest governing body of football, and the most outspoken person on the importance of separating politics from sports,” wrote Rajoub, “agree to participate in a political workshop whose objective is to determine the future of Palestine in the absence of Palestinians?
“I am sure that your intention is to help the cause of peace, and promote football as a bridge for peace, but, from where I’m standing, I’m afraid millions will see it differently.”
Rajoub concluded by insisting that “Peace and prosperity in Palestine can only be achieved in one way: by calling on Israel to end its occupation and stop the piracy of our land and natural resources, and working with us and the rest of the world in good faith to achieve the lasting peace we all dream of.”
Infantino’s participation in the “Peace and Prosperity” event comes two years after he personally blocked the PFA’s bid to secure sanctions against the Israel Football Association at FIFA Congress due to the latter’s collusion in Israel’s illegal settlement project. FIFA Council subsequently rubber-stamped his actions behind closed doors.
For his part Gonzalo Boye, the PFA’s legal adviser, hinted that the PFA may take steps against Infantino for his appearance at the conference. “It is most probably a matter not for us but for the ethics committee,” he commented to journalists, “According to the ethics committee, [Infantino] should not only be neutral but he should never involve politics in the game.” In practice FIFA’s Ethics Committee is highly unlikely to take such action without an appeal from the PFA.