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International calls rise for FIFA to suspend Israel


The Press Release copied below, gives the text of the Open Letter in Saturday’s Guardian calling for FIFA to suspend the Israeli Football Association (IFA) at the FIFA annual congress in Zurich on 28-29 May 2015.  Signatories are former UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, Palestinian refugees’ champion Salman Abu Sita and a number of progressive writers, film makers, politicians and activists including Breyten Breytenbach, Noam Chomsky and Ronnie Kasrils.

Kick Israel out of FIFA (graphic: Stephanie Westbrook)

Kick Israel out of FIFA (graphic: Stephanie Westbrook)

Their intervention comes on the same day as a call from FIFA President Sepp Blatter for a concession by Israel towards the Palestinian FA. Speaking to reporters Mr. Blatter declared that “a solution is only a realistic proposition when those who are privileged are prepared to concede something and contribute to equality.”

Blatter will seek such a concession when he visits Israeli PM Netanyahu on 20th May and Palestinian PM Abbas on 21st May. But Israel does not seem minded to compromise. Earlier this week details emerged of the huge diplomatic campaign being mounted by Israel to scupper the effort to secure its suspension at FIFA’s upcoming annual Congress. Haaretz reports that talks have been held with sports ministers and football association heads in over 200 countries. The subject matter has included “incriminating information” on the alleged involvement of Palestinian footballers in terrorism and assertions that the Palestinians are only taking a political stand – totally ignoring the fact that the Palestinian’s stand is centred on human rights.

The Israelis do not acknowledge that several leading Palestinian players have been detained for long periods on the basis of secret “evidence” and amid claims of mistreatment amounting to torture. The most famous of these, Mahmoud Sarsak, was freed in 2012 after an international campaign to which Mr Blatter gave his support. Last year Israel’s Sports Minister declared that the detained striker Sameh Maraabe had acted as a clandestine courier for Hamas, but he was subsequently released without charge. 

The Red Card Israeli Racism campaign believes that Israel could avert punishment in the sporting world if only it would devote itself to genuine reform rather than spreading malicious narratives that it is not prepared to test in open court.

PFA President Jibril Rajoub said last Monday that their initiative comes “after nearly three years of a failed mechanism to secure meaningful and substantial commitments from the Israeli side, where oppression and discrimination against Palestinian sports… have remained unchanged.”

Press Release issued on 16 May 2015

The following Open Letter has been published May 17, 2015 in support of the Palestinian call for suspension of the Israeli FA at FIFA’s Annual Congress on 28-29 May 2015.  It is signed by eminent human rights advocates comprising members of the committee of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Patrons of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and others. 

We call on Fifa to suspend the Israel Football Association | Letters | World news | The Guardian

Text of letter:

The Palestinian Football Association will present a motion to Fifa’s annual congress on 28-29 May, calling for the suspension of the Israel FA. We urge delegates to pass the motion. Palestine took to the pitch at January’s Asian Cup to standing ovations from football fans of all nations. Their very appearance at the tournament was a heroic achievement in light of the obstacles faced by the team. No thanks are due to the IFA. It has stood shoulder to shoulder with Israel’s murderous regime while Palestinian footballers have been shot, beaten, bombed, and incarcerated along with their fellow citizens. And its only response to the day-to-day obstruction of travel, tournaments and the development of facilities has been to repeat the much-abused mantra of “security concerns”.

The IFA welcomes teams from illegal settlements into its leagues and competitions. It has racially segregated part of its national children’s league, incurring legal action. It has never once disciplined Beitar Jerusalem FC for that club’s longstanding apparent ban on the hiring of Arab players, or taken serious action to curb the notorious anti-Arab violence of its supporters. Two years of diplomacy have failed to secure change, and Fifa must now take punitive action in defence of its humanitarian ethos. Its 30-year exclusion of South Africa from its ranks provides a precedent for the action that is required. The lesson, surely, is that there can be no “positive engagement” with apartheid – only principled opposition.

Fifa owes it to all Palestinians to uphold their right to fully access football by supporting the call from the Palestinian FA for suspension of the IFA.


John Berger

Rodney Bickerstaffe

Breyten Breytenbach

Noam Chomsky

Richard Falk

Pat Gaffney

Rev. Garth Hewitt

Ronnie Kasrils

Aki Kaurismaki

Bruce Kent

Ken Loach                               

Michael Mansfield

Miriam Margolyes

John Pilger

Sir Bob Russell

Salman Abu Sita

Ahdaf Soueif

Baroness Jenny Tonge

Benjamin Zephaniah

About Red Card Israeli Racism

Red Card Israeli Racism (RCIR) campaign objective is the suspension of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) from UEFA and FIFA until Israel observes international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians. Visit their website at

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28 Responses

  1. just
    May 18, 2015, 2:42 pm


    Sanctions now! Sideline ’em! Boycott their games! Thanks so much for this and for the great graphic, Stephanie Westbrook!

    Kate has posted many articles on this subject, and Bornajoo kindly posted Gideon Levy’s latest, “Time for FIFA to show Israel the red card”, yesterday:

    “The truth must be told from the outset: I hope Israel is suspended from FIFA. On May 29, a move might be made that could become a game changer. It could start a chain reaction whose end is hard to predict. If soccer’s governing body shows Israel a red card, as the Palestinians demand, it could mean that soccer becomes the source of transformation.

    It would mean the time has finally come for Israel to pay for the crimes of its occupation. That Israelis begin to be penalized for what is done in their name, with their involvement, their agreement and their funding. That Israel’s continued breaking of international law – arrogantly and crudely thumbing its nose at it – has a price. And what better price than banning Israel from international soccer games until it changes its conduct? It worked amazingly well in the past with Israel’s mentor in a number of areas, South Africa – the international boycott of apartheid sports was one of the decisive elements that led to the fall of the regime – and it could work with Israel as well.

    The first response to any decision to suspend Israel will, of course, be Israel calling foul, playing the victim, unifying the ranks and launching a counterattack: look what they’re doing to us, those anti-Semites, those Israel haters; we are a nation that dwells alone, the whole world is against us! Of course, use will be made of the memory of the Holocaust. Politicians and wheeler-dealers will try to outdo each other with outraged statements. Zionist Union chairman MK Isaac Herzog will announce that, in such matters, there is no opposition and coalition, just one people. Israel will declare Palestinian soccer illegal by dint of an Israel Defense Forces general’s directive: every boy with a soccer ball will be arrested; perhaps a stadium in Gaza will be bombarded on the grounds that it is a weapons storehouse; Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub’s office in Ramallah will be flattened (not for the first time).

    The Czech Republic and Canada will suggest holding friendlies against Israel; Shimon Peres will organize a game between Micronesia and the Palestinians.

    But a few months after that, dried out and discouraged, without international soccer or an international diplomatic horizon, questions and doubts will arise. What can Israel do to return from Devil’s Island? Why did they really do all that to it? And, above all, was it worth it? Is it worth continuing the occupation and paying the price, which will only continue to grow? Are the settlements of Itamar and Yitzhar worth being ostracized over?

    The sanctions and bans won’t stop at Zurich: FIFA will sound the opening whistle, which some of the world is just waiting for.

    Then, when the price becomes intolerable, more and more Israelis will awaken from their indifference. There’s no chance they’ll do this beforehand: they have no reason to – life is good, society is in denial and brains are washed.

    A soccer ban doesn’t kill anyone. A boycott spills no blood. It is a legitimate weapon to establish justice and apply international law. Israel supported and supports boycotts, and encourages them: against Hamas, against Gaza, and, of course, against Iran. It even joined the boycott against South Africa, albeit in spite of itself. Now its turn has come.

    Can anyone deny that it has been shown the yellow card countless times and continued as if nothing had happened? Should it not be shown a red card over the imprisoning of millions of Gazans, including Gaza’s soccer players?

    Does FIFA President Sepp Blatter remember the soccer player whose brilliant future he predicted – Mohammed al-Qatari, from the Al-Amari camp, a student at the Blatter Soccer Academy in Ramallah? Does he know Qatari was killed by an IDF bullet straight to the chest from 70 meters away, while protesting the last war in Gaza? Was that not a crime?

    Israel is now wearing its insulted and shocked diplomatic face and trying tirelessly to prevent the evil edict. It might even succeed this time, too. But isn’t it time we all asked, how much longer?”

    – See more at:

    • truth2power
      May 18, 2015, 2:48 pm

      Well said, Just! Once there is one sports sanction – more will follow, as it did in South Africa. This one MUST get the ball rolling (pardon the pun!) :)

      • ritzl
        May 18, 2015, 3:39 pm

        I was just going to write that, t2p.

        FIFA, as corrupt as it is (Hi Ellen) would be acting on “tip of the iceberg” incontrovertible and sanctions-legitimizing specifics crisply underlined by a FAILEDmulti-year effort to “negotiate” a correction of the behavior.

        It’s positively emblematic! People will notice, should it pass. Unfortunately, they’ll also notice if it doesn’t.

        Something’s seriously up when somebody as slippery as Sepp Blatter states publicly that:

        “a solution is only a realistic proposition when those who are privileged are prepared to concede something and contribute to equality.”

        I wonder what Israel can do to “lobby” FIFA. What can they say? It doesn’t happen? It’s crystal clear that it does. At this point, does anyone really believe that Israel’s “intelligence” on security threats is simply made up? I guess this vote will answer that question as well.

        And thanks, just. Levy nails it yet again.

  2. Bornajoo
    May 18, 2015, 2:58 pm

    Ditto Truth2power and Just!

    But once again, we do need to expect to be disappointed. It’s very, very unlikely that they will suspend them. In my previous life I’ve worked with fifa and unfortunately they are not as honourable and principled as they should be.

    However if they do the right thing here, I will retract that statement and will finally believe they have changed their previous attitudes. Unfortunately the chances are very small. We need to remain realistic

    Superb efforts RCIR!

    • Bumblebye
      May 21, 2015, 9:41 am

      Jibril Rajoub will be taking part in bbc World Service prog “World Have Your Say” in a few minutes! 3pm BST. #WHYS on twitter for anyone wishing to pose questions that way.

      • just
        May 21, 2015, 10:12 am

        Many thanks, Bumblebye! Folks can listen here:

      • just
        May 21, 2015, 11:53 am

        “Emmanuel (with his lovely accent), studying in Jerusalem was given many moments to spout.

        The Palestinian, Ahmed, was dismissed and not even thanked for his participation.

        The BBC is still doing what they’ve done forever.

        “Softball interviews with Israeli ministers breach impartiality code, BBC admits”

      • Bumblebye
        May 21, 2015, 2:37 pm

        Extremely disappointing. Zionist “capture” of the bbc now extends to the world service. It used to be independent – funded by govt grant, not from monies raised thru the annual licence fee (officially/legally seen now as a tax since 2006). As of earlier this year it’s been funded from the licence fee pool, so various “rationalisations” have occurred leading to those in charge of “our” bbc – heavily zionist at the top – also having greater control of ws output. I guess there’s only Jon Snow of Channel 4 left to speak out freely.

        I don’t pay for a licence, only applies to tv which I refuse to have!

  3. hophmi
    May 18, 2015, 3:20 pm

    LOL. Yes, please kick Israel out of this corrupt, horrible organization that destroys the economies of its host countries and includes human rights luminaries like the DPRK, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and many others. Another victory for Arab dictators, oops; I mean, “human rights” activists.

    • Krauss
      May 18, 2015, 3:34 pm

      Your loathing of FIFA is shared by me. That it has allowed Apartheid Israel to stand uncontested for so long is another notch to add to that list.

      Football is a beautiful game and it has been saddled with a kleptrocratic and corrupt worldwide organisation, headed by the slimeball Sepp Blatter.

      Yet it is nonetheless thanks to grassroots pressure that this campaign is even off the ground. Just like it was with Apartheid South Africa.

      Progress will be in spite of FIFA, not because of it.

      • hophmi
        May 18, 2015, 4:53 pm

        Israel will stay in FIFA. And if it actually is removed, it will only make clear that the activist community is fighting a political battle, tinged with antisemitism, at the behest of human rights violators, not a human rights battle at the behest of the downtrodden.

    • eljay
      May 19, 2015, 9:25 am

      || hophmi: … Yes, please kick Israel out of this corrupt, horrible organization that … includes human rights luminaries like the DPRK, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and many others. ||

      Birds of a feather. Looks like Israel is right where it belongs.

  4. just
    May 18, 2015, 4:54 pm

    Ben White:

    “Israel fears FIFA red card, as Palestinians’ campaign gains momentum

    …Israel’s belated diplomatic offensive was kick-started on March 31, at a Ministry of Foreign Affairs-convened meeting with the IFA and military officials. After the meeting, “a classified message was sent to all Israeli ambassadors, calling for total mobilization”, with diplomats urged to “use their connections, and personal and professional skills in order to draw a line in the sand.”

    The sense of panic has meant weekly government meetings “to review progress”, with “hundreds of diplomats at the ministry’s headquarters in Jerusalem and abroad” devoting time to the issue. On April 2, another classified message told Israeli diplomats “to meet with or talk by phone to government sports ministers and the respective heads of soccer federations.”

    Israel’s PR messages are that the Palestinians are seeking to ‘politicise’ sport, as well as implicating Palestinian football players in ‘terrorism’, and attempts to smear Jibril Rajoub. Interestingly, Israel’s response has also included steps to address the Palestinians’ complaints, such as easing “as much as possible” the travel of players between Gaza and the West Bank.

    FIFA has a history of suspending a number of members for various reasons, including South Africa in 1961, part of what became a widespread boycott of the apartheid regime until its collapse. Israel is now worried that suspension “could set a precedent that might encourage similar moves at other international organizations, accelerating the imposition of boycotts on Israel.”

    With some in Israel describing the mere presence of the suspension request on the FIFA congress agenda as “an unprecedented Palestinian victory”, it is clear that whatever the result in Zurich – and Israel is certainly pulling out all the stops in its fightback – moves to hold Israel to account for its occupation and colonisation of Palestinian lands are gaining in frequency and prominence.”

    Dave Zirin:

    “Israel and Palestine Agree: Keep Politics Out of Soccer

    We have before us a point of agreement between Netanyahu’s Israel and the militarily vivisected area of land at times referred to as the Palestinian territories: the idea that sports and politics should not mix. Tragically—not unlike words such as “life,” “liberty,” and that whole “pursuing happiness” thing—the phrase means far less as it journeys from abstraction to reality. …

    …Both sides want to keep sports and politics separate, which makes this a fascinating look at what people mean when they make that kind of a plea. In sports it is very common to hear this sentiment from owners, media, and fans but it is rarely if ever used to critique the hyper-militarization of sporting events or the use of public funds to build stadiums (or, in a recently exposed synthesis, the use of public funds to celebrate the military). In other words, it is not sports and politics that they want to keep separate but sports and a certain kind of politics. “Keep sports and politics separate” morphs into code for ‘just shut up and play.'”

    In this case, the Israeli Football Association is saying, “Do not use sports as a way to argue for statehood. Sports is not the place for that kind of rhetoric.” The Palestinian FA is saying, “We can’t compete because the politics of the Israeli occupation makes developing soccer a near-impossibility.” This is a very tough argument for the Israeli FA to win. If sports and politics were truly kept separate, then the Palestinian Football Authority would be able to travel freely, receive foreign visitors, and enter international tournaments without the fear of not being able to show up. As I’ve argued here many times, attacking the ability of Palestinian soccer to develop is also about attacking fun, play, and hope. While the Palestinian FA has facts on their side, no observer expects them to win 75 percent of the vote. But if Blatter even prevents this from even being raised on May 29, it would be an ugly gesture from an ugly individual. FIFA is hardly a moral force in this world, but soccer certainly can be. It is the closest thing we have to a united global obsession that links every country. FIFA’s sole organizational obligation is to make sure that everyone has a chance to play. What worries Netanyahu is that discussing this issue in soccer then becomes like pulling a thread on a sweater. If soccer is warped by occupation, then what about education, healthcare, or basic staples of civil society? That’s a question the Israeli FA is now scrambling to see unasked.”

    ( the “huge diplomatic campaign” link doesn’t work for me)

  5. HarryLaw
    May 18, 2015, 5:17 pm

    It is unlikely FIFA will suspend Israel since 75% of the nations have to agree, it is however a secret ballot??? The Issue of settlement teams competing in Europe I think is wrong and tantamount to recognizing an illegal situation, since no Palestinians are in such teams. There could be no reasons that may have applied for instance to the recognition of acts of the occupant in the ‘Namibia’ example at the International Court of Justice. Then registrations for births, deaths or marriages or other such practices which were deemed to help the protected occupied population as defined in the Geneva Conventions, article 4, could be accepted, and did not recognize South Africa’s illegitimate occupation over the territory.

  6. John O
    John O
    May 18, 2015, 5:41 pm

    I hate to pour cold water over people’s hopes, but I have no hopes that Israel’s “red card” will come about. FIFA, especially with Sepp Blatter in charge, are about as corrupt as a sporting organisation gets.

    They bent the rules so that Israel does not play its World Cup qualifying matches as part of the Middle East, but as part of Europe. Thus, it does not have to play Arab countries with which it is often technically at war; at the same time, it is such a small fish in a big European pool, it is unlikely to qualify (only ever getting to the first round in 1970) and cause political embarrassment.

    Comparisons with South Africa are misguided. SA, even when excluding 80% of their population from national teams, were potential world champions at cricket and rugby union, so boycotts hurt them badly. Israel are – literally – not in the same league.

    • Bornajoo
      May 18, 2015, 5:57 pm

      I fully agree with your comment John O. (unfortunately!) it’s better we get the cold water now.

    • NickJOCW
      May 19, 2015, 9:17 am

      I have negative interest in football, I was forced to play as a child and mostly remember getting distressingly covered in mud. The notion of Israel being classified as European for qualifying purposes leaves me gob smacked. Israel is no more European than Yemen. That ought to be rectified for starters, and if the reason really is it doesn’t want to ‘play against Arab countries with which it is often technically at war’ then it should make peace with them. Furthermore, if it seriously thinks itself European it has no business claiming Palestine.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        May 19, 2015, 2:40 pm

        @NickJocW ”Furthermore, if it seriously thinks itself European it has no business claiming Palestine.”

        That’s one of the many fundamental contradictions of Zionism. When it suits, Israelis are ”European” and describe themselves as alien to all the weird shenanigans of the orient. On the other hand, they claim that they are the indigenous people ‘returning’ to their ‘homeland’ in Palestine, with more right to the land than Palestinians who can trace back their ancestors for hundreds of years.

        Zionism really is daft.

    • hophmi
      May 19, 2015, 11:38 am

      “They bent the rules so that Israel does not play its World Cup qualifying matches as part of the Middle East, but as part of Europe. Thus, it does not have to play Arab countries with which it is often technically at war”

      You can thank the Arabs for that; they have always sought to use every possible international forum to harass Israel, while using their oil wealth to avoid any opprobrium for themselves. It is not Israel who asked to be part of Europe. The Israelis don’t boycott the Arab countries. The Arab countries boycott them.

      • Mayhem
        May 21, 2015, 1:54 am

        And those countries that have refused to compete with Israel should be thrown out of their respective confederations, whether it be FIFA, the Olympics or whatever. Such boycotts are fundamentally against the rules and principles of all these hypocritical confederations.

    • pjdude
      May 21, 2015, 1:28 am

      FIFA for when IOC needs to look good

  7. eGuard
    May 18, 2015, 6:49 pm

    The Israel Football Association was founded in 1929 (huh?). Originally named Palestinian Football Association. Today they brag that the mandate Palestine team competed in the preliminary rounds for the World Cup in Italy (1934; PFA did not qualify) with a Jews only team.

    Recent years IFA worked with FIFA to clean up and rewrite the history books.

  8. just
    May 19, 2015, 9:43 am

    “Israel Football Association halves Beitar Jerusalem’s punishment for racist misconduct

    Jerusalem soccer club originally docked two points after their fans chanted racial abuse at a rival team’s Arab player.

    An Israel Football Association appeals court on Monday halved a two-point punishment for misconduct against Beitar Jerusalem after their fans chanted racial abuse at a rival team’s Arab player.

    The court said it had deliberated long and hard before deciding to reduce the penalty and was giving the club one final chance to prove that their fans had learned their lesson following many previous punishments. The incident cited in the referee’s report involved a section of Beitar’s supporters shouting racial abuse at Hapoel Kiryat Shmona’s Ahmed Abed, who scored a late winner for the visitors in a league match this month.

    “After considering the matter, we have decided – and not without hesitation – to give the club and its fans one final opportunity to show that they have indeed learned the required lessons and that from now on they will work to eradicate any racist chanting,” the ruling said. “…

    Only more proof that IFA needs to be kicked out. Israel’s courts, even the football courts, cannot be trusted to hold any of their racists accountable for anything. It was a paltry “punishment” in the first place, and now they’ve “halved” it!

    btw, I checked through the “Red Card Israeli Racism” website this morning. It’s quite impressive, and I thank you all for what you are doing. Here’s the link:

  9. eusebio
    May 19, 2015, 12:05 pm

    Israel must take the peace and stability in the region and human rights advances

  10. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    May 19, 2015, 2:37 pm

    Israel is as shit at football as it is at just about any other sport – other than simulated ‘grin ‘n’ point’ as in those obviously staged ‘look at that wonderful Iron Dome intercepting that dastardly missile’ pics. So it would not be missed if kicked out of FIFA – it’s not like their presence will ever trouble any major tournament. Still, I agree with Bornajoo and others that the chances of the corrupt FIFA kicking them out are virtually zero. That said, all credit to those who signed this letter, and no credit to the Jonathan Freedland Guardian for burying it away in the back corner somewhere.

  11. just
    May 19, 2015, 5:03 pm

    “Fifa president Sepp Blatter proposes Israel v Palestine ‘peace match’
    • Blatter in Middle East to persuade PFA to drop proposal to suspend Israel
    • Fifa president meets Netanyahu, will see Palestinian officials on Wednesday

    Sepp Blatter, visiting the Middle East to try to persuade the Palestine FA (PFA) to drop a proposal to suspend Israel from the world body, on Tuesday proposed a peace match between their national teams.

    Blatter, the Fifa president, appeared at a news conference in Jerusalem after meeting the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and said he was “on a mission of peace”. He meets the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Palestine FA chief, Jibril Rajoub, on Wednesday.

    The PFA accuses Israel of hampering its activities and restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions it imposes.

    Although Blatter declined to detail what was said in his meeting with Netanyahu and the Israeli FA chairman, Ofer Eini, concerning the Palestinian agenda item at the Fifa congress on 29 May, he said he could reveal his plan for a “peace match”.

    “One item I can tell you that I spoke about with [Netanyahu] … to arrange a match for peace between the national teams of Israel and Palestine and Fifa would be happy to organise it,” Blatter said.

    He added that Netanyahu promised he would attend such a fixture but, with enmities between Israelis and Palestinians running high, it is hard to envision such a match taking place in the foreseeable future.”…

    What is Schlep Blather doing? Does he really expect Netanyahu or any Israeli in power to make peace of any kind? Or does he want the Pope to award him a medal and call him an “angel of peace”?

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