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FIFA slammed by human rights defenders for failure to expel Israeli football clubs based in illegal settlements

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A wide coalition of Palestinian and international organizations denounced FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s failure to compel Israel’s national football league to exclude six football teams based in illegal Israeli settlements and called for the dissolution of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine.

FIFA’s failure to act against the Israeli settlement clubs renders it complicit in Israel’s violations of international law, and violates its own rules, which forbid member associations from playing in the territory of another member association without the latter’s permission.

The FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, established in May 2015 and chaired by Tokyo Sexwale, was due to submit its report to the FIFA Council in October 2016. Israeli government officials have pressured the committee to soften its recommendations and prevent the exclusion of Israeli settlement clubs from its leagues.

Despite promises of accountability, it seems that FIFA has bowed to Israeli pressure and is delaying the publication of its committee’s report indefinitely, therefore making more difficult action on the issue in the upcoming FIFA Congress in May 2017.

Sharaf Qutaifan, from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), said, “The FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine has failed to deliver on its mandate and should be dissolved. FIFA and the committee have bowed to political pressure, refusing to take meaningful action to end the Israeli Football Association’s violation of FIFA statutes. FIFA is breaching its own duty of neutrality and is discriminating against Palestine. Infantino has abandoned his promise to make a clean break from the corruption of his predecessor Sepp Blatter, and has instead followed in his footsteps.”

The Palestinian Football Association, Palestinian and international campaigners, Human Rights Watch, lawmakers and the UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace Wilfried Lemke have long urged FIFA to ensure that football teams based in illegal Israeli settlements are excluded from Israeli football leagues. They have asked FIFA to suspend the Israeli Football Association (IFA) if it refuses to comply. Almost ten thousand football fans wrote to FIFA President Gianni Infantino last month demanding urgent action on Israeli settlements, but FIFA has failed to act.

Kwara Kekana of BDS South Africa said, “South Africans know too well how ‘constructive engagement’ helped perpetuate apartheid and the suffering of black South Africans. Similarly, the false premise of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine is that the parties can talk the issues out, but there is no middle ground when it comes to international law and FIFA’s own rules. FIFA must end this sham process of committees or face widespread protest and condemnation for its double-standards.”

Dr. Geoffrey Lee, coordinator of Red Card Israeli Racism, said, “It’s hard to see a logical reason for delaying the decision on Israel’s illegal settlements’ clubs and Israel’s persistent attacks against Palestinian football. FIFA statutes are crystal clear. This is yet another instance of Israel’s political bullying tactics to deny Palestinian human rights.”

In 2014 Gianni Infantino, then the General Secretary of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the governing body of football in Europe, banned clubs in the annexed Crimea region from playing in competitions in Russia. Raffaele Spiga, a human rights campaigner based in Bologna, and member of BDS Italy, said, “We are seeing a double standard applied by Infantino. He talks about protecting football from political interference but he is making the issue of Israeli settlement clubs political instead of just applying FIFA’s own rules. His reluctance to act brings football into disrepute.”

Roman Vonwil, a Palestine solidarity activist based in Bern, and member of BDS Switzerland, said, “We will continue to raise the issue of Israeli attacks on Palestinian football at every possible opportunity. FIFA is legitimizing settlements, considered war crimes under international law, and is allowing for racism and discrimination to persist in football, contradicting Infantino’s promise to clean-up the game.”

The Red Card Israel Campaign has spread to the Arab countries holding a seat at the FIFA Council, with fans demanding their federations propose a resolution demanding Israel’s suspension. Batoul Al Mehdar, a football fan in Cairo and member of BDS Egypt, concluded, “We call on the FIFA Council to sanction Infantino for going back on his promises and failing to meet his responsibilities. Football fans in the Arab world are watching FIFA closely and expect Israel to be held to the same standards as everyone else. We denounce FIFA’s Euro-centric approach, privileging the interests of its European members over the interests of the game. Israel must not be given a free pass.”


  • Palestinians have long complained to FIFA about Israeli attacks against Palestinian players. Israel has arrested and tortured Palestinian athletes, denied their freedom of movement, and bombed their football stadiums. This is in addition to Israel’s routine disruption of Palestinian efforts to import necessary football equipment. Racism is rampant in Israeli football, evident in Israel’s segregated youth leagues that separate Jewish players from non-Jewish players, and the violent anti-Palestinian racism of Beitar Jerusalem club and fans who are notorious for chanting, “Death to the Arabs.”

  • In April 2016, a report by John Ruggie, former UN Special Representative on Business and Human Rights, called on FIFA to do more to respect human rights. The recommendations led FIFA to enshrine a commitment to human rights in its statutes. The latest UN Security Council resolution 2334 reiterated the illegality of Israeli settlements, giving impetus to the efforts targeting settlement clubs in FIFA.

  • Israeli settlements are not only unlawful under international humanitarian law, but they also contribute to serious human rights abuses. The settlement clubs play their home games on land unlawfully seized from Palestinians. Settlements are also a direct cause of harsh restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, access to natural resources and ability to run businesses or build homes. International law considers settlements to be war crimes.

  • The strategic document “FIFA 2.0: the Vision for the Future”, published by FIFA in October 2016, promises that the organization will be governed by the principles of transparency, accountability, inclusivity and cooperation.


The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was initiated in 2004 to contribute to the struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. It advocates for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions for their deep and persistent complicity in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights that are stipulated in international law. Visit PACBI online and follow us on Twitter @PACBI.

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12 Responses

  1. John O
    John O on March 10, 2017, 10:48 am

    FIFA has another problem. The USA wants to stage the 2026 World Cup. There’s no way a US bid should even be considered while the current travel ban is in place.

  2. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw on March 10, 2017, 4:23 pm

    “FIFA’s failure to act against the Israeli settlement clubs renders it complicit in Israel’s violations of international law, and violates its own rules, which forbid member associations from playing in the territory of another member association without the latter’s permission”.
    This sounds like a clear case of breach of FIFA’s own rules, in which case what are the Palestinian Football Association going to do about it? As a member it can initiate a court case and compel FIFA to abide by its own rules. Or are the PFA too afraid of the consequences?

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus on March 11, 2017, 1:38 pm


      You can’t be serious: the Palestinian association, as any Palestinian organization in occupied Palestine, is operating under military occupation. I suppose it is just as free to act as, say, a French or Dutch or etc. football association who would have requested the expulsion of the German football authority around 1943.

      • HarryLaw
        HarryLaw on March 12, 2017, 9:02 am

        echinococcus. Why then have the Palestinians [albeit after much soul searching] initiated a complaint at the ICC? When to do so, according to one Israeli General “constitutes an act of war”[General Mandelblit Wikileaks] Finally this from Professor Finkelstein.. “I’m an athiest but I do believe that God helps only those who help themselves. Palestinians will never get anything from Israel or the United States unless they force them to accept their demands by mass resistance,” Professor N Finkelstein.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus on March 12, 2017, 11:52 am

        Bingo, Harry Law. Norman Finkelstein has said it best.
        That’s why I always try not to use the phrase “The Palestinians” when speaking of any non-clandestine organization operating in Palestine, all collaborationists –the PA (willy) or others including sports bodies (nilly.)
        They and the Zionist must perforce evoke an image of conflict among themselves and exchange harsh words, under penalty of totally losing the audience. But expecting any of these organizations to seriously perform an act of “helping oneself” qua Palestinians would be absurd.

  3. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson on March 10, 2017, 5:42 pm

    RE: “FIFA slammed by human rights defenders for failure to expel Israeli football clubs based in illegal settlements”

    MY COMMENT: This is part of the reason I do not pay any attention to professional sports.

  4. DaBakr
    DaBakr on March 10, 2017, 5:42 pm


    Fifa should just up and kick these zionists right on out of FIFA . Period

  5. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw on March 11, 2017, 2:52 am

    Either the Israelis are in breach of FIFA rules or they are not, I think the civil rules of contract are applicable here.
    FIFA co-operative agreement Article 39. Dispute resolution. Any disputes arising between the parties shall firstly be resolved through mediation. Should this prove impossible, the provisions of
    national law and the relevant FIFA rules shall apply.
    Unless the Palestinian football Association fight back, they would deserve to have sand kicked in their faces.

    • Boo
      Boo on March 11, 2017, 9:38 am

      You’re speaking of internal dispute resolution, which is indeed governed by the terms of the contract. The subject here is whether justice-minded outsiders should apply external pressure, something entirely ungoverned by any FIFA contractual restraints.

      The two are hardly mutually exclusive.

      And staying with your comic-book-rear-cover beach scenario of the proverbial “98-pound weakling” having sand kicked in his face by a bully, I doubt the victim would object if the bully were mobbed by other Good Samaritan beachgoers.

      I’d be delighted to see the BDS screws tightened on FIFA to hold it accountable.

  6. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw on March 11, 2017, 10:18 am

    Boo, The point I am making is If the Palestinians, who are directly affected by this shameful action by FIFA are not going to do anything about it, then why should anyone else? Do you remember the two court cases last year with Labour Party members taking the party to court over the rule book [contact law]. If the Israelis were treated like this you would never hear the end of it, and there would be court action, Guaranteed.

    • John O
      John O on March 11, 2017, 4:25 pm

      I think you’re being unfair to the Palestinians, who have unique problems getting their voices heard anywhere. FIFA is corrupt and rotten to its core, so compounding Palestinians’ difficulties. And while I do think it was a coincidence, their case was up for discussion when FIFA imploded after US Attorney General Loretta Lynch exposed that rottenness in 2015. They have tried hard and continue to do so.

      • HarryLaw
        HarryLaw on March 12, 2017, 7:08 am

        John O, I partly agree with you, unfortunately Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party is acting under Abbas instructions. Can you remember a couple of years ago Abbas steadfastly refused to make a complaint to the ICC on the grounds that he is against the legal option, preferring to negotiate man to man with the Israelis. Ha! Then he does not support BDS ““No, we do not support the boycott of Israel,” the Palestinian leader told a group of South African reporters on Monday.
        Of course Abbas is the sub contractor of the occupation, The Logic of Abbas the Monarch, Subcontractor of the Occupation
        “Abbas’ sane warning against falling into the trap of war evaporates due to his dictatorial conduct”. On a personal note I have had disputes with The Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, a ‘So called charity’ who have access to vast amounts of money, who have refused me advice on ‘labelling’ issues [contrary to their charitable aims]and told me any court case would be very expensive and unless I could find the money, or I could get an NGO to stump up, they could not help me. One of their officers [the Treasurer] when told I would take a case myself actually said “Sorry we can’t help without money, but best of luck to you”] My experience is that they are not a Charity at all, just a business. I have been to court three times over the years on these labelling offences, sometimes arguing fine points of International law with the Judges [I am not a Lawyer] I can tell you the LPHR are good at raising money and sending innocuous letters to various Government Ministers, but they will not take a case without being well paid for it.

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