PA official slams world soccer chief for folding under Israeli pressure
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PA official slams world soccer chief for folding under Israeli pressure

Jibril Rajoub says FIFA is 'capitulating to the will and influence of Israel' in refusing to ban Jewish state because of teams from settlements

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Top Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub on Tuesday attacked the president of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Gianni Infantino, and accused him of “capitulating to the will and influence of Israel.”

Rajoub, who is head of the Palestinian Football Association (FPA) has long been demanding that FIFA ban Israeli soccer teams from international competition because six of the teams in the Israeli leagues are from West Bank settlements.

Rajoub, made his accusations during a visit to Algiers, where he is attending an event organized by the Algerian National Organization for Sports Journalists, according to the Palestinian daily Al Quds.

Rajoub complained that the FIFA president “did not deal appropriately” with complaints against Israel lodged by the Palestinian Football Association (FPA).

“Infantoni’s demeanor is unsound and unrealistic and he is subject to the influence and will of Israel,” Rajoub charged, according to the newspaper.

In this Friday Feb. 7, 2014 photo, Wadi al-Nees players warm up before a league game at a stadium in Hebron, West Bank. (photo credit: AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

He claimed that because the West Bank is “sovereign Palestinian territory” the teams violate Article 72.2 of the FIFA Statues, which states that “Member associations and their clubs may not play on the territory of another member association without the latter’s approval.”

The six teams are based in Kiryat Arba, Givat Ze’ev, Oranit, the Jordan Valley, Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim.

The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War for a future state.

Israel, for its part, has accused Rajoub and the Palestinians of using sports as a political weapon.

“There’s a letter from the United Nations secretary general that says that settlements in the West Bank are illegitimate,” Rajoub was quoted as saying at the Algiers event.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport, an independent institution based in Lausanne, is scheduled to look into the FPA complaint on March 6 and 7, he noted.

In May 2017, the FIFA Congress in Manama, Bahrain, removed from its agenda a Palestinian motion to suspend the six Israeli teams, drawing sharp criticism from Rajoub.

Later that year, FIFA, citing the “exceptional complexity and sensitivity” and “political” nature of the issue, announced that it will not take a position on the six Israeli teams.

“Given that the final status of the West Bank territories is the concern of the competent international public law authorities, the FIFA Council agrees that FIFA, in line with the general principle established in its Statues, must remain neutral with regard to political matters,” FIFA said in a statement at the end of a meeting in Kolkata, India.

“Furthermore, it was agreed that any interference by FIFA in the status quo of football in the relevant territories without the consent of the parties concerned might aggravate the situation of football not only in the territories in question, but also in the greater region affected — which would not be in the best interests of the game.”

Rajoub also renewed his opposition to sports activities between Arabs and Israel. “Sports normalization with institutions belonging to the Israel government is a crime,” he said.

Al Quds also quoted Rajoub as saying that he had turned down “conditional American funding” for the construction of sports facilities in the West Bank.

Rajoub did not specify the nature of the alleged US conditions. Nor did he provide details about the sports facilities that were supposed to be built in the West Bank.

The senior Palestinian official said he preferred funding provided by the Palestinian Authority to “conditional money, regardless of its source.”

 

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