Settlement Clubs and FIFA

The Palestinian FA has recognised that its best route to overcoming Israeli repression is through FIFA, so it has concentrated its efforts there. RCIR has taken the same approach. After little progress in 2013 and 2014 the 29 May 2015 FIFA Congress marked some progress – but not enough. The main stumbling block has turned out to be the position of settlement clubs. After delaying action by FIFA that issue is still to be resolved.
RCIR actions prior to the 29 May 2015 FIFA Congress.
The campaign has written on a number of occasions to the FIFA Executive Committee members demanding the suspension of the IFA. The same message has been conveyed to the Chairmen of the six FIFA regional confederations and to all 209 national federations. In May 2013 the campaign handed in a petition to FIFA at its Zurich office signed by 12,000 people from over 100 countries. By May 2015 that number of signatories had risen to over 20,000. That petition was submitted to FIFA before the 29 May 2015 Annual Congress.
FIFA and PFA actions prior to the 29 May FIFA Congress.
At FIFA’s Annual Congress in May 2013 in Mauritius the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) presented a booklet to participants (see Racism page) detailing the oppression experienced by Palestinian footballers. See also Palestine, Israel and the beautiful game. PFA President Jibril Rajoub was not able to present his case to the assembled FIFA members at this time. Subsequently he threatened to call for the expulsion of the IFA from FIFA. FIFA President Sepp Blatter responded by establishing an ” Israel-Palestine Task Force” to solve in particular the problems of international movements for Palestinians, in spite of Rajoub’s further scepticism . The next meeting was held on 23 September 2013 to agree on the framework for discussions.
Unsurprisingly, the Task Force did not achieve any results. The Israeli FA (IFA) must be relatively powerless to influence the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) that actually implements the repressive measures against Palestinian football. At the FIFA Annual Congress in June 2014 Jibril Rajoub addressed the assembled members, and outlined the repression that they faced at the hands of the Israelis. This was probably the first time that many of the members had learned at first hand of these appalling facts. Sepp Blatter asked the Palestinian FA to withhold submitting a motion for suspension or expulsion while he personally contacted the Israeli Government. His delegate reported back to the FIFA Executive Committee on 19 December 2014 announcing almost no progress. The Asian Confederation chairman hinted that sanctions could be taken against Israel at next May’s FIFA Congress unless concrete measures are put in place to ease the burden on Palestinian footballers.
Grounds for IFA suspension
Constraints on football in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Formal grounds for suspension of the IFA must be based on the Israeli actions of suppressing football activity in another State, thus flouting Section 3 of the July 2013 FIFA statutes: Discrimination of any kind against a Country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin colour, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.
Responsibility of the IFA rests on the fact that it is state institution. The fact that the IDF acts to repress Palestinian football does not absolve the IFA from responsibility. The policy of repression is set by the State of Israel and the IDF simply implements that policy. The IDF is a state institution, but so is the IFA (1), and both are regulated by the same state body: the State Comptroller. The State of Israel also contributes significantly to the IFA’s budget (1,2). These official links make the IFA inextricably embedded in the discriminatory policies of the State and the repressive actions of the IDF against Palestinians. In that way the IFA contravenes FIFA Statutes.
(1) Quotation by MK Zvulun Orlev, from a Knesset hearing about the Israeli national football team in 2009: “The State Comptroller, by law, regulates the association, due to its being a public institution as well as being a supported institution: the State of Israel contributes to its budget”. ” מבקר המדינה, על פי חוק, מבקר את ההתאחדות, הן מהיותו גוף ציבורי וגם מפני שההתאחדות הישראלית לכדורגל היא גוף נתמך. מדינת ישראל משתתפת בתקציבו,” http://www.nevo.co.il/law_html/law103/chinuch2009-12-23.htm
(2) A recent Ministry of Culture and Sport annual budget shows about USD 50 million, of which only two thirds was spent. http://budget.msh.gov.il/#001937,2012,0,1,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0
We have exchanged letters on this with FIFA on 1 March 2014, 25 March (FIFA reply) and 12 May 2014 (see relevant posts).
The 29 May 2015 FIFA Congress
The Palestinian FA’s (and RCIR’s) overarching objective of excluding the Israeli FA from FIFA was almost achieved at the May 2015 FIFA Annual Congress in Zurich through a Palestinian motion. However, political manoeuvring by Blatter ensured that there was virtually no support from other FIFA members for the Palestinian FA’s motion for suspension (see posts on 29 May 2015 and 27 March 2015). As a result the Palestinian FA dropped its demand for exclusion of the Israeli FA in return for the establishment of a FIFA Monitoring Committee chaired by South African Tokyo Sexwale, on the basis of an “Amendment” submitted by the Palestinian FA to address the Palestinians’ concerns, which was reported by FIFA to include:
a) Freedom of movement
b) Import of Foreign sourced football equipment
c) Construction of football facilities.
This did not include the issue of settlement clubs, which the Palestinian FA had actually proposed in its amendment. However, when the committee started work settlement clubs were included.
Details are given in posts on 12 June 2015 and most completely in a Press Release on 26 June 2015.
RCIR campaign strategy
The campaign revised its strategy for late 2015 and early 2016 to tackle directly three of the main concerns of the Palestinian FA. The intention was to make direct representations to the Monitoring Committee and to exploit electronic media and support from international stars to widen the call for support:
1. Settlement Clubs. The aim is to get the five youth teams banned from playing in the Israeli leagues; currently this flouts FIFA statutes and international law. Full details of the arguments are given in the 29 October 2015 post.
2. Beitar Jerusalem. The aim is to get the club banned from playing. To date, the racism of the club and its fans has not been adequately punished. Even Israeli President Rivlin has condemned the fans’ racism and has admonished the club and association leaders. We are campaigning to have the club banned from all football, not just international football. One of the main supporters is Binjamin “droves of Arabs” Netanyahu, so that task will not be easy.
3. Al Shomoron. The aim is to help ensure that the youth leagues in this area that were segregated a year ago into Palestinian and Jewish leagues (with one minor exception) are recombined. It hints that this was in response to calls from Jewish parents. This action flies in the face of FIFA Statute 3 and UEFA Statute 7.7 which stipulate suspension or expulsion for racist actions. In October 2014 the Adalah organisation petitioned the District Court to cancel this reorganisation and this will be followed up by the campaign.
4. Free movements of players. The aim is to help ensure that Palestinian players can move freely between the West Bank and Gaza and between those areas and other countries. This was tested very soon after the Congress, and it was only with FIFA intervention that movements between Gaza and the West Bank took place after a delay of 4 days. Since 2015 there have been several restrictions on movements of Palestinians for the two-leg final of the Palestinian Cup. Every year there has been a problem and in 2019 the second leg involving the Gazan team moving to the West Bank did not take place that season. Otherwise international movements have taken place successfully, but with some delays, in particular for one youth player.
Post-May 2015 developments
The Monitoring Committee was extremely slow to act, the main problem being Israeli intransigence. Posts on this site comment as follows: in 2015 on 26 August, 2 October 16 December; in 2016 on 3 November and in 2017 on 22 March, 12 May, 18 May, 19 May, 26 October, 31 October; and in 2018 on 6 March. Some of these are by eminent journalists.
The story that unfolded over those posts is that the Monitoring Committee chairman Tokyo Sexwale presented a draft report on 22 November 2017 with a threat that the Israeli FA could be suspended if it did not remove the settlement clubs from its leagues. The Israelis objected very strongly and so in the draft actually written the suspension was softened to “shown the yellow card”, which the Israelis still objected to. Prior to the May Congress Infantino, FIFA’s president, ensured that the matter would not be discussed at the Congress because the draft had not been completed in time. A call from Israeli president Netanyahu just before the Congress presumably was influential. The Sexwale report was simply sidelined.
Expecting this sort of action, the Palestinian FA presented had its own motion to the Congress but this was delegated for a decision to the 35 member FIFA Council whose first meeting after the Congress was in October. Then the Council then said that it should not be discussed as its lawyers said that it was “political”.
The Palestinian FA then appealed to the Court of Arbitration of Sport which rejected the appeal on procedural grounds. It did say that the substantive matters behind the Palestinian action could be presented to the Court, but no action has been taken yet and no formal report has been published, which is not normal. See posts on 13 June 2017 and 30 September 2017.
FIFA president Infantino then commented that the matter of settlement clubs was dead. Clearly for him it was, but not for the Palestinians.

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