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Palestinian football chiefs hit out at FIFA over Israel decision (JMD quoted in Arab News)

DAOUD KUTTAB | Published — Sunday 29 October 2017

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino revealed the decision on Friday. (AP)

AMMAN: Palestinian sports officials have claimed they were deceived by FIFA and that the organization’s decision not to sanction Israel for having teams present in the Occupied West Bank was the result of a power struggle within the governing body.

On Friday FIFA revealed it would not reprimand Israel, instead de facto legitimizing Israeli action in the occupied territories.

Susan Shalabi, vice president of the Palestinian Football Association, told Arab News that FIFA’s decision to do nothing regarding the Palestinian complaint was “a violation of both Swiss law and international law.”

The five Israeli football clubs located in the occupied territories violate FIFA laws that stipulate clubs are not allowed to play in another country’s territory without the latter’s permission.

The UN informed FIFA that the Israeli clubs were located in occupied Palestinian territories — UN Security Council Resolution 2334, passed in December 2016, also reiterated that the settlements are illegal according to international law and all countries are forbidden from legitimizing them.

The FIFA decision came in response to three recommendations made by South Africa’s Tokyo Sexwale, the chairman of the Monitoring Committee set up by former FIFA president Sepp Blatter in May 2015 as a compromise in return for Palestine withdrawing its request to eject Israel from FIFA.

A FIFA source told Arab News that Palestinians are the victim of an internal power struggle within football’s governing body.

“Ever since the departure of Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s presidency has been weak and easily pressed from one continent to another,” the person said.

The source added that there are concerns that Sexwale is likely to receive a high position within a newly established FIFA New Projects development unit.

South African activists belonging to various civil society and faith-based organizations concerned with Palestine issued a call on Friday demanding that Sexwale resign from the international football governing body, accusing him of “delaying justice.”

“FIFA has delayed in taking action against the Israel Football Association and its violation of FIFA statutes. Instead of acting, FIFA has continuously delayed and Sexwale is part of this delaying process,” a statement by the National Coalition 4 Palestine said.

Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Federation, is holding a press conference today to respond to the FIFA decision and outline the legal steps that Palestine will consider. FIFA members have 21 days to initiate a complaint against any of the decisions by the FIFA council.

James M. Dorsey, senior fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Arab News that FIFA’s assertion that it is not going to take a political stand was pure fantasy.

“Whatever FIFA asserts, a decision in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute was going to be political. Having said that, FIFA’s decision not to take a stand on clubs of Israeli settlements on occupied territory playing in Israeli leagues constituted a political decision by the organization not to apply its own rules,” he said.

Dorsey added: “It is those kinds of onerous decisions that undermine FIFA’s credibility as a governing body that adheres to good governance.”

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