Palestinians disappointed but determined after FIFA betrayal
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Fri, 05/29/2015 – 20:37, Electronic Intifada
Palestinians are expressing disappointment at the abandonment and
sabotage of efforts to have Israel suspended from world football’s
governing body over its systematic abuses of Palestinian players.
But campaigners are vowing to continue to work to isolate Israel.
Despite repeated vows not to back down, Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, pulled a motion to suspend Israel from FIFA in what The Guardian termed “a chaotic last minute climbdown.”
Bait and switch
Instead, the delegates from 209 member countries overwhelmingly
adopted a motion muscled onto the agenda by FIFA’s scandal-ridden
president Sepp Blatter
to create a committee to monitor Palestinian football and Israeli
abuses – a sporting version of the “peace process” that has gone nowhere
Blatter’s move, just hours before he was re-elected to FIFA’s
presidency, came over objections from the Palestinian officials, who
thought that delegates would be allowed to vote on a motion to refer the
status of Israeli clubs based in settlements in the occupied West Bank
to the UN.
The Palestinians, according to The Guardian, were
“comprehensively outmanoeuvred by feverish Israeli lobbying and the
opposition of senior FIFA officials, including Blatter.”
Powerhouse Germany’s football association joined forces with Israel to defeat the Palestinian effort, according to Israeli media.
As this video shows, two women briefly disrupted proceedings on the
congress floor, holding up red cards and a Palestinian flag and calling
out slogans in support of Palestinian rights. They were hustled away by
Responding to today’s events, Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations that works to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, said:
“The Palestinian BDS National Committee is disappointed that the
entire FIFA congress, including the Palestinian Football Association,
have not lived up to their obligations and stated principles.”
“FIFA and its membership have delayed the suspension of Israel, but
they cannot delay the growth of the international boycott of Israel or
prevent the continued isolation of Israel because of its human rights
abuses and war crimes against the Palestinian people,” Shuaibi added.
“We warmly thank the many activists and supporters of the Palestinian
struggle who mobilized in support of the suspension of Israel from
Red Card Israeli Racism,
a UK-based group that campaigns for a boycott of Israeli football
bodies, has been protesting outside the FIFA congress meeting in Zurich.
“We’ve been writing letters to FIFA members, pointing out the
arguments for Israel’s suspension,” Geoff Lee, a member of the campaign,
told Patrick Strickland earlier this week.
“Israel may punish me”
In a New York Times op-ed yesterday, Palestinian footballer Iyad Abu Gharqoud urged that Israel should be given the “red card.”
“Players, coaches and referees are blocked from moving between the
West Bank and Gaza Strip, and frequently are barred from tournaments,”
Abu Gharqoud wrote. “Israel has also violated FIFA rules by allowing
teams from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank to play in
Israel’s leagues. In addition, the Israeli fans of the Beitar Jerusalem
club are notorious for chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’ at matches –
racist abuse that the Israel Football Association’s token disciplinary
measures have failed to deter.”
“Today, our players are frequently arrested and detained,” Abu
Gharqoud added. “Last year, two of our most talented young players were
shot and wounded by Israeli forces at a checkpoint.”
Abu Gharqoud laid out the case for sanctioning Israel in the sports
arena in the same manner as apartheid South Africa a generation ago:
“Until the day that Palestinians and Israelis are equal under the
law, FIFA has a moral duty to exclude Israel from the World Cup and
European Championships. Israeli officials may punish me for saying so,
but it will be only through their exclusion from international soccer
that Israeli citizens will realize that the subjugation of the
Palestinian people comes at a growing political and cultural cost.”
The sense of disappointment over today’s debacle matched the
excitement in recent days – expressed on social media – that FIFA would
provide a rare venue for Israel to be held accountable.
But once again pro-Israel pressure and backroom deals punctured that hope.