Peace Activist Uri Avnery: Red Card to the Settlers!

Posted on Jul 31, 2016

Gush Shalom founder Uri Avnery urges readers to sign a petition demanding the Israeli Football Association either remove the settlement football clubs from its membership or relocate them outside the illegal settlements

In recent days, a growing global campaign is calling for soccer clubs based at Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories to be banned from participation in the Israeli Soccer League. Should the Israeli Soccer Association fail to comply, Israeli soccer in general might find itself expelled from FIFA, the International Soccer Association.

As might be recalled, on May last year Jibril Rajoub of the Palestinian Soccer Association demanded that Israel be ousted from FIFA. In the end Rajoub consented not to bring the matter up for a vote at the FIFA Congress, in return for FIFA establishing a Commission of Inquiry to look into Israel’s conduct in soccer-related matters, including possible violations of International Law and of FIFA regulations. Among the issues brought up were arrests and detentions of Palestinian soccer players and restrictions on their freedom of movement, manifestations of anti-Arab racism in the Betar Jerusalem Club and especially the fact that there are six clubs playing in the Israeli Soccer League which are located in Occupied Palestinian Territory.

It should be noted that the State of Palestine is a full member of FIFA, and the Palestinian Soccer Association has the same standing in FIFA as the Israeli one. Further, all the land occupied by Israel since 1967 is considered by the International Community to be sovereign Palestinian territory.

According to FIFA regulations, soccer clubs located in the sovereign territory of a particular country must play in the national league of that country. Therefore, clubs located in settlements on land belonging to the State of Palestine should be playing in the Palestinian League. The very fact that they play in the Israeli League is a violation of FIFA regulations. To play in Israel, these clubs – six in number – would have needed to obtain a special dispensation from the Palestinian Soccer Association. In fact, no such dispensation was ever sought, never mind granted.

The FIFA Commission of Inquiry on Israel’s conduct is headed by South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale, a well-known public figure his country. He had been imprisoned on Robben island together with Nelson Mandela, and after the fall of the Apartheid regime was the governor of a province, a cabinet minister and one of the contenders for the South African Presidency after Mandela stepped down. Nowadays he is a businessman involved in a worldwide mining business.

Sexwale together with the other members of FIFA Commission of Inquiry recently visited Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip and met with representatives of the soccer associations on both sides. The Commission is expected to soon submit to FIFA its conclusions with regard to the issues raised by the Palestinians. It was agreed that, should the Palestinian and Israeli Soccer Associations fail to achieve a mutually-satisfactory compromise, the Palestinian motion to suspend Israel will go back to the agenda of the next FIFA Congress.

Ahead of the submission of the commission’s findings, there is an increasing awareness of the issue among international grassroots civil society groups. Nearly 150,000 people so far have signed a world-wide petition initiated by the Avaaz organization, calling upon FIFA to expel the settlement clubs from the Israeli Soccer League, or alternatively to make them to move to within the Green Line (pre-’67 border). Failure to comply may bring about Israel’s expulsion from FIFA, thus preventing Israeli clubs and the Israeli National Team from taking part in any international soccer competitions.

Israel set up six soccer clubs on stolen Palestinian land. The illegal outposts are an obstacle to peace and are condemned by everyone from the European Union to the USA. Palestinians aren’t allowed into the stadiums, let alone allowed to play football there! Now, FIFA is investigating whether these teams should be allowed to participate in international football — let’s demand the decision helps pave the way for equality.

FIFA laws prohibit using another country’s land without consent, and South African FIFA official, Tokyo Sexwale, just led a delegation to the region to investigate.

Israel is trying to persuade him to do nothing. But if enough of us raise our voices and make this a massive call to Sexwale, who has lofty political ambitions, we could push FIFA to hold the Israeli Football Association accountable. But he submits his recommendation this week — we have to make this big, fast — join

SIGN THE PETITION To Tokyo Sexwale, the Chairman of FIFA’s Investigation Committee : As concerned citizens from across the Middle East, North Africa, South Africa, and the world, we ask you to uphold FIFA’s own rules and provide fair recommendations demanding the Israeli Football Association either removes the settlement football clubs from its membership or relocates them outside the illegal settlements. If the Israeli Football Association doesn’t comply it must lose its membership with FIFA, as has been the case with other federations that have refused to accept FIFA’s fair play rules. There should be zero tolerance for the six teams that flagrantly ignore international law and operate in occupied territory. Settlement football teams legitimise the illegal occupation and condone the suffering the Palestinians face as a result.

 

Originally posted at http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/events/1464389870