Coalition demands teams from illegally occupied West Bank get the boot
OVER 100 groups representing millions of people across 28 countries have called on Fifa Council members to boot out seven clubs based in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Along with many prominent figures including former UN Palestine special rapporteur Richard Falk and I, Daniel Blake director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty, they urged football’s international governing body to tell Israel’s FA to revoke the clubs’ affiliation or suspend Israel from Fifa.
British groups that signed the letter included Red Card Israeli Racism, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and War on Want. International supporters included several trade unions, including Brazil’s 7.5 millionstrong CUT.
Dr Geoff Lee of Red Card Israeli Racism said: “Getting rid of racism in football will help eliminate the tragically high level of racism practised by the Israeli state.
“Israeli laws, military actions and bureaucratic obstacles repress Palestinian football as well as the whole Palestinian community.
“Sanctions are needed to generate change. We demand Fifa sanctions Israel by suspending the Israeli Football Association from Fifa and the Union of European Football Associations (Uefa), until Israel observes international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians.”
The letter was sent to the Fifa Council’s three-dozen members, who are due to meet for Fifa’s 67th congress in early May.
South African former minister and anti-apartheid activist Tokyo Sexwale, who Fifa appointed to monitor football’s development in Palestine, is due to present his recommendations to the congress on May 11.
In a draft report, Sexwale said there were three options open: carry on as now and risk being sued at the Court of Arbitration for Sport by Palestine; request new Palestinian-Israeli talks that have previously gone nowhere; or give the Israeli FA six months to sort the clubs out or face automatic suspension from Fifa and European governing body Uefa.
The letter writers charge that this latter option “is the only course of action that accords with Fifa’s legal and ethical responsibilities.”
Up to now Fifa have repeatedly put off making a decision and selectively applied their rules — including a long-standing one that states that “members and their clubs may not play on the territory of another member without the latter’s approval.”
While the West Bank is under military occupation and Israel has built settlements there containing hundreds of thousands of people, the United Nations has repeatedly ruled that taking territory by force is illegal, and that Israel’s behaviour “constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”
Fifa are legally obliged not to contribute to violations of international law.
The letter’s signatories point out that Fifa have made much of a commitment to human rights in their attempts to clean up the organisation following the corruption scandals of recent years.
“This laudable goal will be judged by the extent of its implementation in real-life contexts, where powerful political actors frequently seek to muffle legitimate calls for justice,” they write.
“It will be a tragedy for us all — and a poor commentary on the progress of self-reform at Fifa — if your policy falls at the first hurdle.”