Don’t Let BDS and Palestinians Turn Soccer Into a Political Football
On 6 December, 2001, at an International Commission of Jurists session on the boycott of Israel held at the United Nations in Geneva, Jibril Rajoub physically threatened me. With his fist at my chin, and despite my visible UN pass, he hissed “Dirty Zionist, out!”
When I asked his name, he responded, “call me Mr. Palestinian terrorist.” As the only Jewish representatives, I and my colleague remained in the room. We detected, perhaps as a result, a shift to a more moderate tone among the speakers.
Like a bad penny, Rajoub is back as the President of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), now with his fist at the chin of Joseph (Sepp Blatter), President of FIFA, demanding “Israel, out!”
BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) as a political football is the direct antithesis of the beautiful game.
As a human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre is deeply involved in campaigns against racism in football, with both UEFA and FIFA.
We are shepherding through the Latin-American Parliament (PARLATINO) an 11-Point Football Programme based upon a European Parliament 10-Point initiative.
We brought to the FIFA 2014 Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil, our successful case against the Argentine Chacarita Juniors Club whose fans screamed abuse against Jews and indigenous groups. The Argentine Football Association Tribunal ruling to disqualify that Club’s season points set a precedent that we brought to FIFA.
Rajoub and his PFA have no such concern for racism or discrimination nor the values of football. He is using FIFA as another arm against Israel.
Indeed, the PFA continually glorifies terrorism, naming teams and clubs for their most notorious murderers of civilians, or, a soccer pitch after Alah Khalaf, responsible for the death of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich 1972 Olympics.
Rajoub was himself, reportedly, arrested for hurling a grenade at an Israeli bus. He was also accused by the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group of torturing his own people as Fatah Security chief on the West Bank.
His arguments for Israel’s suspension from FIFA are based on “restrictions against Palestinian football players.”
Israel is thereby facing a Catch 22 situation: to fight terrorism while exempting footballers from normal security measures.
Rajoub could have taken his case to Israel’s Supreme Court for a fair hearing. That is clearly not his objective. By going to FIFA, he impugns fair-play and the game itself.
Sepp Blatter has responded that suspending a member “is always something which harms the whole organization.”
The Palestinian suspension demand is listed as point 15.1 on the agenda of the FIFA 29 May Congress in Zurich. It immediately precedes the election or re-election of the FIFA President, thus embroiling it directly in the politics of the organization. That might be called “football terrorism.”
“Mr. Palestinian terrorist” – you really have no place in football!
This article was originally published by The Times of Israel.