Hamas condemns dropped FIFA bid as missed opportunity

PA can’t be trusted after giving up on effort to oust Israel from world soccer, terror group says; soccer chief Rajoub mocked on social media

Palestinian Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, gives a speech during a rally in Gaza City, Aug. 27, 2014. (AP/Khalil Hamra)
Palestinian Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, gives a speech during a rally in Gaza City, Aug. 27, 2014. (AP/Khalil Hamra)

Hamas lashed out at Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub over the weekend for abandoning the bid to expel Israel from FIFA, the International Federation of Association Football, calling it a squandered opportunity that went against mainstream Palestinian opinion.

The terror group maintained that the retraction raised questions about whether the PA would follow through on its promises to lodge war crimes charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court, and end its security cooperation with the Jewish state.

Rajoub was also vilified as a “traitor,” a “loser” and an “Israeli collaborator” on Palestinian social media, with users calling on the soccer chief to be fired from his post, according to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, and various mocking political cartoons surfacing online.

Hamas criticized both Rajoub and the Palestinian Authority, dubbing the non-event a missed opportunity, with spokesman Husam Badran telling followers on Twitter Friday that the move was “contrary to the general trend of the Palestinian people.”

“After this retreat, how can the Palestinians trust the Palestinian Authority to take Israel to the International Criminal Court or to end security cooperation?” a Hamas statement said.

“Some seize opportunities, some squander them,” the statement said, adding that “there’s a malfunction in the leadership that addresses the world on our [the Palestinians] behalf.”

Internal Palestinian criticism continued to mount over the weekend following the Friday decision by FIFA’s Palestinian delegation to drop a motion to have the Israeli soccer federation suspended from the international soccer organization. Dozens of political cartoons mocking Rajoub emerged on social media, along with a hashtag urging a “red card” for the Palestinian soccer chief.

On Saturday, Rajoub rejected the Palestinian criticism of the last-minute decision to retract the motion.

“The decision was made in coordination with the Arab associations and our (other) supporters, and out of concern for negative responses from Israel,” he said in a statement.

He added that the FIFA Congress’s vote in favor of setting up a committee to monitor treatment of Palestinian soccer teams was “an achievement that can be counted on.”

Meanwhile, Joint [Arab] List MK Ahmad Tibi said the Israeli celebration of the withdrawn bid as a diplomatic victory was misplaced.

“The joy on the Israeli side is that somebody fell from the first floor and broke an arm and a leg — instead of his neck. [Friday’s] yellow card will likely lead to a red card in the future,” Tibi said Saturday.

On Friday, Rajoub submitted a last-minute amendment to the proposal, eliminating the demand for a ban. He told the FIFA Congress that “a lot of colleagues” had asked him not to call for Israel’s suspension.

“Palestine has not withdrawn its application completely, but merely suspended it,” he added.

Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub addresses the FIFA Congress on May 29, 2015 (screen capture: FIFA)
Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub addresses the FIFA Congress on May 29, 2015 (screen capture: FIFA)

Rajoub had said the monitoring mechanism should oversee three points: the movement of Palestinian soccer players and soccer equipment donated to the Palestinians, racism and discrimination against Palestinian soccer players, and the issue of Israeli teams from settlements in the West Bank, which he referred to as “five racist clubs which should be banned.”

The Congress voted 165-18 in favor of the Palestinian amendment, approving the FIFA monitoring mechanism but essentially abandoning the effort to have Israel banned.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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