FIFA Congress: Blatter blames Israeli government; Rajoub holds his fire; RCIR’s petition continues.

FIFA Congress:  Blatter blames Israeli government; Rajoub holds his fire;  RCIR’s petition continues.

FIFA Congress on 10-11 June 2014.   We give here the text of the address by PFA President Jibril Rajoub and the Reuters report on the proceedings.  This video link records the full proceedings,  with Rajoub’s speech starting at minute 16.30.

Sepp Blatter identified the Israeli government as the key player.   He said that “its co-operation is crucial” and that FIFA would make a direct appeal to the government to it to ease restrictions.  Blatter admitted that the Task Force was not close to agreeing a Memorandum of Understanding and downplayed the possibility of a quick resolution.  He also announced a “new independent committee” to “monitor” progress.   Jibril Rajoub addressed the Congress.  He listed recent violations, which may have been the first time that many of the participants had heard of them.   He supported FIFA’s initiative and dropped his previous call for sanctions against Israel, but emphasised that the suffering of Palestine football had to end.

It is right for FIFA to challenge the government.  Almost certainly Blatter will have to threaten sanctions in order to have any impact, yet at the Congress he appeared worried about the thought of sanctions – which does not auger well  for progress.  So the Palestinian FA will need to be ready for this approach to fail.   On our part, we must keep up the pressure for suspension.  Therefore we will continue the petition calling for suspension of the IFA from FIFA.

(1)  Speech by PFA President Jibril Rajoub

Before I proceed any further, I must thank Mr. Blatter for the report he had just given on the mandate this congress had given him in the last FIFA Congress held in Mauritius.

Mr. Blatter has been entrusted by this congress with the task of finding solutions for the following issues:

(i)    The freedom of movement of Palestinian players and officials within, in and out the Palestinian territories,

(ii)    The freedom of movement of foreign players and officials in and out the Palestinian territories for football purposes,

(iii)    The import of football equipment donated by football bodies such as FIFA and

(iv)    The building of football facilities in the Palestinian territories,

You have all supported that mandate on the basis that a report would be presented at this congress, and that a solution would be found.

The efforts developed by the FIFA President in cooperation with the Asian and European confederations (AFC and UEFA) have resulted in two meetings held in the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, visits in the region in July 2013 and May 2014 and a mechanism based on the appointment of “liaison officers” in FIFA, the PFA and the Israeli FA (IFA).

Ignoring 3 of the 4 above issues and, the mechanism endeavored to facilitate the movement of players, coaches, and referees to, from, and within Palestine. We accepted this arrangement for the sake of good will and have been cooperating with all parties involved ever since it was launched.

Regrettably, the mechanism has not produced any real change on the ground due to the limited influence of the IFA on the Israeli political and military authorities, the timid stance assumed by the IFA both against discrimination and racism in the areas under its jurisdiction, and the violations of its government against Palestinian Football.

So many of you have congratulated Palestine on winning the challenge cup; a historical achievement that attests to the fact that Palestinian football is developing, against all odds. But how many of you know that 6 of our national team key players were prevented from travel by the Israeli Authorities?

Last month, Palestine hosted a tournament in which the teams of Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, and Srilanka participated. How many of you know that the Pakistani team played without its head coach, who was denied entry by the Israeli authorities? That the Jordanian team played without 5 of its players? That Iraq had to play without 8 of its players?

How many of you know that just in the last few months Palestinian players were injured, arrested, or killed by Israeli forces? Has the Israeli football association stood only once to condemn these actions? Can the Israeli FA stand now, before all of us and condemn these violations?

The Palestine Football association is extremely grateful to the FIFA President for his efforts, but FIFA has the duty of preserving the independence of football from political interference, and upholding its members’ stance against discrimination and racism of any kind.

In the meetings of the past few days, there was a suggestion to fix the faults of the mechanism through a robust, permanent and effective monitoring system where a neutral committee, whose composition is accepted by all parties, can intervene and find solutions if and when problems would occur. We welcomed this suggestion, which also dictates that said neutral committee would report to the FIFA Executive committee meeting scheduled to take place in December 2014 in Morocco.

We accepted this suggestion because our end game is to stop the suffering of our footballers, not to seek punishment for others.  But this to be reinforced by guarantees from the Israeli Government that the rights enshrined in the FIFA statutes will also benefit Palestinian football along the same principles benefiting the other 208 FIFA Member Associations.

It’s the 2nd year in which I stand here, before the international football family seeking your help to stop the suffering of Palestinian footballers; to allow us the basic right to move, build, develop and spread the game like the rest of the world…I hope you would not let us walk out  of this hall disappointed….The Palestine Football Association does not want to be left with no option than to ask for sanctions.

There are two messages here: to those who cause the suffering; Stop! And to those who are suffering: never lose hope. The family of FIFA is with you. I want to be able to stand here next year and say: let bygones be bygones. The ball is now in the court of the other side

(2)   Reuter’s report:

A Reuters report of the Congress is being widely syndicated, for example:  The full text is as follows

FIFA president Sepp Blatter and delegates at the FIFA Congress called on the Israeli government on Wednesday to fully commit to FIFA’s plans to ease restrictions on movement for Palestinian footballers.

“I call on the Israeli government to facilitate this movement and I go so far as to say its co-operation is crucial,” Blatter told delegates who roundly applauded him.

He said that relations between the Israeli and Palestine football associations had generally improved since a Task Force was established at last year’s Congress in Mauritius and the Israeli government needed to back FIFA’s plans.

After Blatter spoke, Jibril Rajoub, the president of the Palestine FA said they would not be calling for any sanctions against Israel as he had implied a month ago, but that the suffering of Palestine football had to end.

“I call on those who are causing the suffering to stop and those that are suffering not to lose hope as they are part of the FIFA family,” he told delegates from all 209 of FIFA’s members including Israel.

After Rajoub’s speech, Blatter congratulated the Israeli delegation for not responding negatively to Rajoub’s pleas saying: “Israeli football, you are not abandoned and I congratulate today for keeping silent in the spirit of sportsmanship fair play.”

Although Blatter said the situation had improved generally, FIFA, the PFA and the IFA as well as their respective confederations from Asia (AFC) and Europe (UEFA) were not close to a Memorandum of Understanding which he had hoped they would have been.

“The problems between Israel and Palestine have been going on for more than 50 years and it would not be possible for us to solve them in one year since the Task Force was established,” he said.

“But we have made positive first steps.”

He said a new committee would be formed to help monitor the progress of the relationship between the Israeli and Palestine FAs with consultations between the two continuing.

Israel appeared to inflame the situation earlier this week when it denied Palestine FA deputy general-secretary, Mohammad Ammassi, permission to travel from Gaza to the West Bank, from where he would have crossed to Jordan and on to Brazil for the Congress.

The PFA accused Israel of arbitrarily denying passage to Ammassi.

An Israeli official said Ammassi was banned from leaving the Gaza Strip because he had failed to follow procedure and submit his request at least 10 days prior to travel.

Israel cites security concerns for such restrictions, but has drawn international calls for greater freedom of movement

For the PFA’s original position see:

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