Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1249, (4 - 10 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Palestine drops bombshell

The dropping by the Palestine Football Association (PFA) of its proposal to suspend Israel from world football has created more controversy in the Arab world. Inas Mazhar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The motion to suspend Israel had been included on the agenda of the FIFA congress in Zurich, Switzerland, which took place last week. While the Arab world was anxiously waiting for the president of the Palestine Football Association (PFA) Jibril Rajoub to present his proposal to the 209-member congress to suspend Israel from world football, they were more than disappointed when he dropped the bid.

Rajoub, who still addressed the congress, said he had been persuaded to back down. “I decided to drop the suspension but it does not mean that I give up the resistance,” Rajoub said.

The PFA had accused Israel of hindering its sports and football activities and restricting the movement of players between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel cites security concerns for the restrictions it imposes and the country’s football association has argued that it has no control over security forces.

FIFA had been trying to settle the matter for two years and its president Joseph Blatter, who won re-election on the day of the Palestine-Israeli motion, earlier this month travelled to the region to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an unsuccessful attempt at reconciliation.

Many Arabs believed that Palestine lost out when it forfeited on the motion while others say the Palestinians achieved something after the congress approved the creation of a FIFA committee which, under FIFA regulations, will oversee matters affecting the development of football in Palestine. This includes the movement of Palestinian and foreign players and officials within, in and out of the Palestinian territories.

The decision was followed by a handshake between the presidents of both associations, Rajoub and Ofer Eini which in itself caused outrage among many Palestinians.

Nevertheless, FIFA officials were happy with the result and believe that it comes following the intense mediation work led by Blatter between football and the highest political authorities in Israel and Palestine.
Following the congress vote on the committee, Blatter said, “This is a landmark step that once again shows the power of football to promote peace and understanding. I congratulate both member associations. FIFA will closely monitor the next steps to ensure the smooth implementation of the agreement for the good of football development in the region.”

The committee was not approved for creation until after it was agreed with Rajoub to drop the suspension proposal.

Rajoub has since been facing sharp criticism in the region and his homeland Palestine, especially after his repeated statements that nothing would stop him from pursuing his anti-Israel bid.

The Palestinians have been backing the PFA’s proposal and held several protests in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in favour of the expulsion of Israel on the day before the proposal. After the last-minute withdrawal, angry protesters hacked the PFA’s website the following day and condemned Rajoub as a “traitor”.
Rajoub’s critics also went to social media calling for his dismissal from his position. An online petition called for his firing for his “surprise and uncalculated” move.

“This decision has caused enormous damage to the Palestinian cause and sports,” the petition said. “The Palestinian people need serious leaders who are capable of achieving the right to self-determination.” One activist wrote: “Rajoub’s decision is a severe blow to millions of Palestinians and those who support our cause. It’s time to say enough to corruption, dictatorial decisions and political concessions.”

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine called for an immediate investigation into Rajoub’s decision which it described as a “severe blow to the blood of our martyrs, prisoners and patients”. Rajoub’s decision “beautifies the ugly face of occupation and exonerates it from crimes against our people,” the PFLP said.

The decision was a blow to pro-Palestinian activists and organisations working to promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, it added.
The decision was also denounced by Hamas, saying it showed the PA leadership’s true attitude toward Israel.

Others launched an online campaign titled “Red Card for Jibril Rajoub.”
Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran said that Palestinians no longer trust the PA’s promises to file war crime charges against Israel with the International Criminal Court.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Rajoub’s decision raised “deep and serious concerns” and fear by some Palestinian activists that such a decision would hamper efforts to promote boycotts against Israel in the international community.

Rajoub defended his decision by explaining to reporters that he had met with FIFA, European and Arab delegates and discussed the issue before he made his proposal. He added that he was advised that he might not win the congress votes. “A lot of colleagues who I respect and I appreciate explained to me how it is painful for them to hear in this family about the issue of suspension.”

He said that when he was promised that a committee will guarantee the implementation of their demands and ensure the development of Palestinian football, he dropped the proposal.

The PFA was scheduled to hold a press conference on Tuesday.

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