Palestinians Push for Soccer Sanctions on Israel

Demand FIFA Probe Into 'Neighborhood Bully'

Universal Language: Barcelona star Gerald Pique poses with Palestinian teenagers during visit to West Bank.
getty images
Universal Language: Barcelona star Gerald Pique poses with Palestinian teenagers during visit to West Bank.

By Reuters

Published May 13, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The Palestinians will urge delegates at next month’s FIFA Congress to take sanctions against Israel while it continues to act “like the neighborhood bully”, FA president Jibril Rajoub told Reuters on Tuesday.

Rajoub, speaking at the Soccerex Asian Forum being held on the banks of the Dead Sea, said the relationship between the two Middle East neighbors had seriously deteriorated following the recent arrest of a Palestine footballer and the shooting of two other players.

He said a Task Force established by FIFA president Sepp Blatter last year that included both nations and representatives from UEFA, Israel’s European confederation and the AFC, Palestine’s Asian confederation, had failed to implement any real change or improvement on the main issues of freedom of movement and access for Palestinian athletes.

There was no immediate comment from any Israeli source.

Rajoub, who is also head of the Palestine Olympic Committee, said: “Since the Mauritius Congress when president Blatter formed the Task Force we tried to change.

“So far the Israelis are not co-operating. I hope Blatter and all those who have good intentions can still solve the problem before the Congress otherwise I am going for sanctions against the Israelis.

“They cannot keep behaving like the neighborhood bully, violating all the statutes of FIFA and the Olympic charter and rejecting any good intention either from UEFA, FIFA, the AFC, Palestinian FA or any other interested third party,” added Rajoub.

World soccer’s ruling body FIFA has carried mainly optimistic reports of the Task Force’s work on its website over the last year but Rajoub painted a far bleaker view of the situation.

He also gave little hope for improvement between now and the June 9-10 Congress in Sao Paulo that will be held just before the start of the World Cup in Brazil.

The plan was for a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed between the countries before Congress but that now seems inconceivable.

While Rajoub did not specify the sanctions that could be taken against Israel, he explained why he felt they were necessary.

Disastrous events

“There have been two disastrous events. Last week our national team was in Qatar in camp preparing for the Asian Cup and when they came back the Israelis arrested one of the players and now he is in jail with no reason,” he said.

“I am sure they will release him in a week or two so why arrest him in the first place?

“The other event was the famous story that they shot and injured two athletes who had to go to Jordan for treatment for three months. Then they came back and arrested them,” Rajoub added.

“I don’t think that such a policy should pass without sanctions, without being punished.

“Last year at Congress in Mauritius I said I hoped next year I could come with a solution but if there is no solution I will come back for sanctions.

“Now, this is what we are going to do although I am still optimistic that maybe something could happen before Congress,” said Rajoub.

“According to my own experience as a Palestinian and also as president of the FA, the Israelis never agree to anything without being pressured.

“I think UEFA president Michel Platini could say either you do this or do that.

“He did that once when the Israelis prevented the Jordanian and Iraqi teams from coming to Palestine and he said either/or. Immediately everything changed and all the teams were allowed in.”

Rajoub is also upset the Israelis recently sent a letter to Blatter which said: “We are ready to develop sport in Palestine but this should be done through our channels”.

It was the final straw for Rajoub who told Reuters: “That implies we were affiliated to Israel.

“It means they are not recognizing the very existence of Palestinian sporting entity. This is the substance of the problem and for us I don’t think anything will happen. “It’s what happened in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. It means this is an excuse and I think this is enough for us to ask for sanctions,” said Rajoub. Kirsten Nematandani, former president of the South African FA, said he fully backed Palestine’s complaint.

“As a country we appreciate what Palestine is experiencing. We went through much the same thing ourselves for decades.

“I just hope, by the time we go to Congress, there will be something that is laid on the table that gives us a better way forward.”

Rajoub, speaking at the Soccerex Asian Forum being held on the banks of the Dead Sea, said the relationship between the two Middle East neighbors had seriously deteriorated following the recent arrest of a Palestine footballer and the shooting of two other players.

He said a Task Force established by FIFA president Sepp Blatter last year that included both nations and representatives from UEFA, Israel’s European confederation and the AFC, Palestine’s Asian confederation, had failed to implement any real change or improvement on the main issues of freedom of movement and access for Palestinian athletes.

There was no immediate comment from any Israeli source.

Rajoub, who is also head of the Palestine Olympic Committee, said: “Since the Mauritius Congress when president Blatter formed the Task Force we tried to change.

“So far the Israelis are not co-operating. I hope Blatter and all those who have good intentions can still solve the problem before the Congress otherwise I am going for sanctions against the Israelis.

“They cannot keep behaving like the neighborhood bully, violating all the statutes of FIFA and the Olympic charter and rejecting any good intention either from UEFA, FIFA, the AFC, Palestinian FA or any other interested third party,” added Rajoub.

World soccer’s ruling body FIFA has carried mainly optimistic reports of the Task Force’s work on its website over the last year but Rajoub painted a far bleaker view of the situation.

He also gave little hope for improvement between now and the June 9-10 Congress in Sao Paulo that will be held just before the start of the World Cup in Brazil.

The plan was for a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed between the countries before Congress but that now seems inconceivable.

While Rajoub did not specify the sanctions that could be taken against Israel, he explained why he felt they were necessary.

Disastrous events

“There have been two disastrous events. Last week our national team was in Qatar in camp preparing for the Asian Cup and when they came back the Israelis arrested one of the players and now he is in jail with no reason,” he said.

“I am sure they will release him in a week or two so why arrest him in the first place?

“The other event was the famous story that they shot and injured two athletes who had to go to Jordan for treatment for three months. Then they came back and arrested them,” Rajoub added.

“I don’t think that such a policy should pass without sanctions, without being punished.

“Last year at Congress in Mauritius I said I hoped next year I could come with a solution but if there is no solution I will come back for sanctions.

“Now, this is what we are going to do although I am still optimistic that maybe something could happen before Congress,” said Rajoub.

“According to my own experience as a Palestinian and also as president of the FA, the Israelis never agree to anything without being pressured.

“I think UEFA president Michel Platini could say either you do this or do that.

“He did that once when the Israelis prevented the Jordanian and Iraqi teams from coming to Palestine and he said either/or. Immediately everything changed and all the teams were allowed in.”

Rajoub is also upset the Israelis recently sent a letter to Blatter which said: “We are ready to develop sport in Palestine but this should be done through our channels”.

It was the final straw for Rajoub who told Reuters: “That implies we were affiliated to Israel.

“It means they are not recognizing the very existence of Palestinian sporting entity. This is the substance of the problem and for us I don’t think anything will happen. “It’s what happened in South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. It means this is an excuse and I think this is enough for us to ask for sanctions,” said Rajoub. Kirsten Nematandani, former president of the South African FA, said he fully backed Palestine’s complaint.

“As a country we appreciate what Palestine is experiencing. We went through much the same thing ourselves for decades.

“I just hope, by the time we go to Congress, there will be something that is laid on the table that gives us a better way forward.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.