The congress of FIFA, the International Football Federation, is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Sao Paulo, and the international campaign to have Israel kicked out of the organization for longtime human rights abuses and violations of international law is swinging into full gear right now.
As we’ve been reporting for months, Jibril Rajoub, chair of the Palestinian Football Association, is seeking sanctions against Israel and demanding Israel’s expulsion from FIFA. Time is of the essence, so if those who care about Palestinian rights act together with a loud enough roar, our global message of solidarity will reverberate all over the world and land… in Sao Paulo.
Its petition, a call to suspend the Israeli Football Association’s FIFA membership, was submitted at FIFA offices in Zurich last Wednesday and has over 12,000 signatures. RCIR will keep the petition active until its objective is achieved. The article Petition to suspend the Israeli FA submitted to FIFA prior to decisive Congress explains:
It is intended as input to all FIFA members at the 10-11 June Annual Congress. There the results of the Israel/Palestine Task Force will be presented and the abuse of the human rights of Palestinian footballers will be addressed. Ever since the 1920s Zionists and the Israeli state have exploited football for political reasons to camouflage the apartheid character of the Zionist enterprise. This cannot be allowed to continue. The Israeli FA is complicit in Israeli repression.
For anyone not following the campaign (documented in part here, here, here, here), RCIR issued a response to FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s misleading assertions on the issue. RCIR’s Kenneth Fryde, reporting at Football Beyond Borders, does a wrap up of the strides taken over the past year in “No normal sport in an apartheid state.”
And finally, RCIR coordinator Geoffrey Lee recently returned from Palestine where he’s making a film about football in the land of apartheid. He visited the family of Saji Darwish, a student at Bir Zeit University who was shot in the head and killed while feeding goats outside his home near Ramallah during an Israeli military killing spree last March (six Palestinians killed over 24 hours).
Lee emailed this to me today and I wanted to share it with you:
Our visit to the family of Saji Darwish was the most poignant. It was a month after his killing. His brother was brave in the interview and pointed out the fenced off Israeli-only road from which the shots had come. The official report mentioned that there were only two shots – and said little more. That evening the village held a 5-a-side commemorative tournament. His uncle thought that only then was the village beginning to emerge from its state of shock. Football was helping the community pull itself around.
We met a coach who had been beaten, and a sports organiser who had tear gas grenades thrown at him, and children who were manhandled in pitch invasions. The potential for violence seemed to be everywhere. Road blocks were quiet and threatening; delays meant that an away game could often take two days. Families worried about players’ return.
It was depressing to see the pitches that couldn’t be used, as they were in Area C (full Israeli security control), and to hear of the shortage of pitches. The professional league has eleven pitches for twelve teams and that only seven are up to full international standard. FIFA had to abandon Goal investment projects due the intransigence of the Israeli military.
For all that, the game is on the up. The Palestinian FA is pushing domestically and internationally for improvements and it has FIFA support. We can express our solidarity through BDS activities, like banning Israeli hosting of tournaments and suspending the Israeli FA from FIFA, and by direct involvement like fixing team exchanges and coaching visits, which is already happening through Friendship Associations. But how about upping the ante – training camps, exchanges between professional teams and direct support in facilities by our Football Associations? There’s plenty of scope and it would be enormously beneficial.
Action Alert! Let’s make it happen.
(Thanks to Steph Westbrook and Edward Mast at Apartheid Adventures)