FIFA and IFA

ObjectiveSuspension of the Israeli Football Association from FIFA until Israel respects the human rights of Palestinians and observes international law.

Campaign Strategy

This overarching objective was almost achieved at the May 2015 FIFA Annual Congress in Zurich. 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).

Instead, by a unanimous vote, an Israel Palestine Monitoring Committee was formed, to be chaired by South African Tokyo Sexwale, on the basis of an “Amendment” submitted by the Palestinian FA, to address the Palestinians’ concerns.

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 is 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 2105 post. The Israeli FA has fought against inclusion of this topic being considered.
  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.

Another major concern, arguably the most important concern of the Palestinian FA, and included in the Palestinian Amendment is:

  • 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. International movements have taken place successfully, but with some delays, in particular for one youth international player.

However, this is being monitored carefully by the Palestinian FA and our campaign will take action as appropriate.

At the same time, the campaign will maintain its petition call for suspension of the Israeli FA from FIFA and UEFA.

Actions taken 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.

Background.

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 statutesDiscrimination 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).

Racism inside Israel.  The IFA has failed to take adequate anti-racist measures inside Israel, thereby contravening UEFA and FIFA statutes.  (1) Fans at Beitar Jerusalem have continued their racist chants over the years; such behaviour in Europe would get the club’s gates closed.  Examples abound, perhaps the worst of which is the ESPN report in 2012.  In 2013 two Chechen Muslim players were hired.  As a result, part of the club’s facilities were burned, the players and their supporters were jeered both on and off the field, and they and the manager and coach who hired them were obliged to leave the club.  (2) In late 2014 the IFA split off a number of Palestinian youth teams in the Al Shomoron area to form a separate league from the Jewish clubs.  Comments by the IFA suggested that it was requests from Jewish parents that led to the change.  This has been challenged in the courts. (3) Taunts against the Muslim captain of Bnei Brod “Tuahmeh is a terrorist have been report to the IFA – just as they were seven years ago. The IFA has clearly failed to take effective action..

 

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