Abu Dis Club player Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, was shot by Israeli soldiers and assaulted by dogs on January 31. (Photo: xssportpal)
Elham Asaad Buaras
According to an exclusive report from a leading online football magazine, FIFA has given Israel until the summer to improve travel and playing conditions for Palestinian soccer players, with the threat of expulsion as a member of soccer’s world governing body hanging ominously overhead.
INSIDE World Football reported on March 31 there has been added pressure in recent months after FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, visited the Middle East last July.
A petition by Red Card Israeli Racism (RCIR) calling for FIFA to suspend the Israeli FA has achieved more than 10, 200 signatures since its launch almost seven weeks ago. Speaking in February, Chair of the Palestinian FA, Jibril Rajoub, said they will seek the expulsion of Israel from FIFA at this summer’s FIFA Congress at the World Cup in Brazil, unless travel restrictions for sportsmen between the Occupied Territories and Israel were removed, as well as the targeting of footballers. He added that he has the support of other Arab and North African nations.
Palestinian football officials have demanded Israeli security forces ease the travel restrictions on footballers and officials attending matches. “We will demand the expulsion of Israel from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee,” said Rajoub.
He said he has the support of Iran, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Algeria and Tunisia already, and will seek further backing from other Arab states during the March 14 meeting of Arab ministers responsible for youth. He has also called for international recognition of the Palestinian FA.
Palestinian officials argue that Israel is in violation of Article 3 of the FIFA Statutes which states: “Discrimination of any kind against a Country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin colour, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
Representatives from Israel’s highest soccer authorities have responded that Palestinian players and officials have enjoyed greatly improved access to move in and out of the West Bank and Gaza.
Omitting FIFA’s decision to suspended the apartheid-ridden South Africa between 1964 and 1992, Israel FA CEO Rotem Kemer said; “It has never been the policy of FIFA and UEFA to mix politics and sport.”
He insisted: “We are making our best efforts in order to help the Palestinian association. We are trying to make things easier for them.”
Despite his comments, earlier this year two teenage Palestinian footballers were shot by Israeli security forces in the West Bank and were told it is unlikely they would play again. Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were shot by Israeli soldiers as they were walking home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium in al-Ram in the central West Bank on January 31.
The incident drew the attention of FIFA vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who said, “I am not promoting or defending any side (but) I am in a very difficult situation where I have to take two boys from Palestine at my own expense, for treatment in Jordan.” He is also head of the Jordanian FA.
“These are the two who were shot in the legs and set upon by dogs. Why is this happening? Under FIFA statutes you cannot say one country can do one thing and another country can do something else. All we are asking is to allow our young boys and young girls to play the sport.”
Last year footballers Eric Cantona, Frederic Kanoute and 50 other international players challenged UEFA’s decision to hold the Men’s U-21 tournament in Israel. Human Right groups questioned how an organisation that clearly promotes anti-racism can place a major competition in an openly racist country. Yet UEFA still plans to hold the U-19 Women’s final there in 2015 and may consider Israel as a venue for preliminary matches in Euro 2020.