Israel is facing a possible ban from international soccer competition, including the World Cup, unless it improves conditions for Palestinian players and coaches, according to media reports.
Jibril Rajoub, the head of Palestinian football and a former PA security official, is pushing for the FIFA ban, claiming Israel’s travel restrictions on Palestinians amount to a form of oppression. FIFA, the Federation of International Football Associations, is the governing body of international soccer competition.
The FIFA Congress is scheduled to meet in Sa0 Paulo in June to decide on the issue. FIFA President Sepp Blatter said he plans to visit the region in April and hopes to have a written agreement between the two sides signed before or during the congress.
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Israeli Football Association CEO Rotem Kemer said Israel was making an effort to meet the needs of the Palestinians but warned that politics may have seeped into the issue.
“We don’t think this is right,” Kemer told Inside World Football. “It has never been the policy of FIFA and UEFA to mix politics and sport. We are making our best efforts in order to help the Palestinian association. We are trying to make things easier for them.”
In February, FIFA set up a mediation task force to resolve the issue, but Rajoub dismissed the results as unsatisfactory.
“It’s not just players,” he said. “You are talking about instructors, consultants, anyone who wants to come to Palestine. They have to wait for hours to get permits.”
The attempt to push Israel out of FIFA is in line with the stated goals of the BDS movement, which seeks a world-wide boycott of “Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions.” The BDS supporters have also launched a petition on the issue that has already reached nearly 10,000 signatures. The petition makes a direct comparison between the current situation and that of Apartheid-era South Africa:
When FIFA formally suspended the membership of the South African FA between 1964 and 1992, its action contributed to international pressure to end apartheid.
Therefore, the petition asks FIFA to follow this precedent and suspend the Israeli FA. The Israeli government must at some point take notice.