Palestinians call on FIFA to ban matches in settlements

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An official from the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) on Tuesday called on football’s
ruling body FIFA to ban Israeli teams from playing
matches in Jewish-only settlements across the
occupied West Bank.

“By allowing games to be held on Palestinian land
where settlements have been built, FIFA is involved
in political and business activity that supports
these settlements, which are considered
illegitimate and illegal by international law,” Ali
Ishaq, a member of the PLO’s committee in charge
of the sports department, said in a statement.
The call comes two days after New York-based
Human Rights Watch urged FIFA to act on the
issue of six clubs who play in Israeli settlements in
the occupied West Bank.
“By holding games on stolen land, FIFA is
tarnishing the beautiful game of football,” said Sari
Bashi, the director of HRW for Israeli and the
Palestinian territories.

To comply with international law, she said, the
clubs “need to move their games inside Israel”.
Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank since
it seized the territory in the 1967 war.
Palestinians have long opposed the participation in
the Israeli championships of the settlement clubs,
which play in Israel’s third, fourth and fifth
divisions.
FIFA is expected to discuss the issue at an October
13-14 meeting of its executive committee.
“FIFA will continue its efforts to promote friendly
relations between our member associations in
accordance with FIFA statutes and identify feasible
solutions for the benefit of the game and everyone
involved,” it said in a statement to AFP news
agency.
The Israel Football Association responded to the
HRW’s report by saying the sport was being
“dragged from the football field into a political
one”, but that it had faith FIFA would deal correctly
with the issue.
The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head
Jibril Rajoub confirmed to AFP that it asked the
Asian Football Confederation and European Union
to take up the case, and it was hopeful FIFA’s
executive committee would.

In theory, if the issue is not resolved, the PFA
could renew its efforts to expel or suspend Israel
from FIFA.
Last year, it threatened to table a resolution calling
on FIFA to suspend Israel over its restrictions on
the movement of Palestinian players, in a move
that also included a protest over the settlement
teams.
It withdrew the bid at the last minute and FIFA set
up a monitoring committee to resolve the issue.
The committee is due to submit its
recommendations to the upcomming FIFA council
meeting.
Earlier this month, a group of 66 members of the
European Parliament signed a letter calling on FIFA
President Gianni Infantino to ban Israeli clubs
based in settlements.
The MEPs cited UEFA’s 2014 decision to ban
Crimean football clubs from taking part in Russian
competitions as a precedent for barring the
settlement teams.
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and
Jerusalem are illegal under international law and
have been a major stumbling block in negotiations
between Palestinians and Israelis.
“Let me be absolutely clear,” UN chief Ban Ki-
moon said earlier this month, “settlements are
illegal under international law.”

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