Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday called on the International Olympic Committee to ban Palestinian soccer chief Jibril Rajoub for “inciting violence” in athletics.
In a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach, Erdan noted that international soccer body FIFA slapped a 12-month ban on Rajoub earlier this year for calling on fans to burn pictures and jerseys of Lionel Messi as part of a campaign to stop Argentina’s national team playing in Israel.
“Rajoub was suspended and fined by FIFA for inciting violence,” Erdan said in his letter. “I call on the International Olympic Committee to follow suit.”
“There should be no room in respected international organizations for those who support terror, promote violence and employ threats and intimidation,” the minister told the IOC. “Rajoub’s behavior stands in direct opposition to the values of the Olympics.”
There was no immediate response from the IOC to Erdan’s demand.
In addition to being the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Rajoub also serves as the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee and is the Palestinian Authority’s representative to the IOC.
In August, FIFA banned Rajoub from attending games for a year and fined him 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,600, 17,700 euros) for “inciting hatred and violence” after calling on Arab soccer fans to burn Messi memorabilia if he participated in an Argentina game in Jerusalem in June.
Rajoub was filmed earlier that month saying in Arabic “we will target Messi and we will ask everyone to burn his t-shirt, his picture, and to abandon him.”
His campaign was cited as a factor leading to Argentina canceling the World Cup warm-up match.
The Palestinian Football Association said FIFA “rushed to condemn” Rajoub based on “non-neutral media reports.”
Rajoub also criticized the ban as “unjust and political,” and denied any wrongdoing.
“This is an unjust and political decision, an Israeli decision,” he said during a September press conference. Rajoub said he intended to appeal the decision.
The ban will apply for the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, which kicks off in January, and likely include the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying program.
But Rajoub is able to continue running the federation and attend FIFA meetings. He has been a constant thorn in the side of soccer’s governing body as he tries to get sanctions imposed on Israel.
At the annual FIFA Congress, Rajoub regularly addresses soccer nations to demand Israel be punished for restricting movement of Palestinian players, and for forming teams in West Bank settlements.
Last year, FIFA dropped a complaint by the Palestinian FA over games played in a number of Israeli settlements.
AFP contributed to this report.