Red Card for Racism: Activists demand FIFA kick out Israel

6 May

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Kick Israel out of FIFA (Poster: Stephanie Westbrook/rcir.org.uk)

 

 By Annie Robbins, Mondoweiss (Journal on Middle East), 2 May 2014

Last March Jibril al-Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, demanded the expulsion of Israel from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee as a result of  “Israeli brutality” emphasizing “the occupation’s insistence on destroying Palestinian sport.”

Last summer FIFA president Sepp Blatter stated he would set up a taskforce to deal with the many problems Palestinians must deal with sporting under occupation. Those “problems” include everything from travel restrictions to the arrest, torture, maiming and killing of Palestinian athletes. At this time al-Rajoub threatened he would “call on delegates at the next FIFA Congress to expel Israel.”

That time has come. The FIFA congress is meeting again days before the World Cup begins on June 12th in Brazil next month. Supporters of Palestinian footballers are fed up and we are demanding Israel be kicked out of FIFA.

An international campaign of sports activists, Red Card Israeli Racism (IRCR), believes” we can bring pressure on Israel to drop its racism and apartheid policies and laws.” Their objectives include:

Exclusion of the IFA from hosting any Euro 2020 tournaments

Replacement of Israel as host of the UEFA 2015 Women’s U19  tournament.

Boycott by UK teams and players of any tournaments planned in Israel and of any matches with Israeli teams

Direct support of Palestinian football teams

 

IRCR’s petition ”Suspend the Israeli Football Association’s FIFA membership” available here (pdf) picked up thousands of supporters after details of the horrifying attack on two Palestinian soccer players, cousins Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were reported by Dave Zirin, Sports Editor for The Nation, in March.

Middle East Monitor (MEMO) recent coverage of IRCR’s campaign, New campaign seeks to suspend Israel’s FIFA membership:

The campaigners cite a historic precedent in which FIFA officially suspended the membership of South Africa between 1964-1992 as part of the international pressure that aimed to end the apartheid regime.

Football players Eric Cantona, Frederic Kanoute joined other international stars of the game to declare their rejection of the decision by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to hold the men’s under-21 tournament in Israel. Arab-American activist Rahaif Awadallah called for the suspension of Israel’s membership in FIFA to pressure Israel to respect Palestinians’ human rights and allow Palestinian football players to play at home and abroad. Awadallah said it is now time that initiatives are taken to reinforce the sports boycott of Israel.

He accused the Israeli occupation of restricting football players’ mobility inside the West Bank and between the West Bank and Gaza, preventing players from participating in international tournaments and banning the entry of sports equipment that Palestinian teams and stadiums need. He also cited tens of cases in which Palestinian players were arrested, detained or killed.

He noted that there are well-documented cases in which Palestinian players in Israel were insulted by the audience in the stadium with chants including “death to Arabs” but the Israeli federation took no action to end such attacks.

UEFA is considering holding the women’s under-19 tournament in Israel in 2015. Israel was also selected as a venue for preliminary matches for Euro 2020. FIFA recently recognised some Israeli violations and created a task force aimed at facilitating the mobility of players and equipment in Palestine.

The Red Card campaign accuses the Israeli authorities of curbing the advancement of Palestinian football and sports through a number of procedures and restrictions that target the following aspects:

1. Sports’ infrastructure: Israeli procedures stand against the construction or development of stadiums. Israel sometimes demolishes existent Palestinian stadiums.

2. Restricting mobility: Palestinian players, visiting players, board members and journalists inside and outside the Palestinian territories often have their movements limited or travels banned.

3. Blocking sport shipments: Israel imposes complicated procedures that delay or prevent receiving shipments or donations sent by FIFA or the Asian Football Federation amongst other groups.

4. Political intervention: Overriding organised friendly matches between Palestine and teams of other states.

5. Human rights violations: Continuous violations of players’ rights through unexplained arrests and kidnaps.

Reportedly according to news agency Qodsna, another player of Palestine’s national soccer team, Sameh Moraebe, 22 years old, was arrested Wednesday by Israeli military forces en route to Qatar.

According to Abdola al-Fara, the coach of the Palestinian national football team, Israeli forces interrogated Moraebe after his arrest and he remains in custody. The source reports the arrest came one day after Israel refused to authorize 9 Gazans to leave the Strip to participate in training courses of the Asian Football Confederation held in the West Bank.

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