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.
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.
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.
Rev. Garth Hewitt
Sir Bob Russell
Salman Abu Sita
Baroness Jenny Tonge