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August 24, 2018 12:34 pm

FIFA Slaps Palestinian Soccer Chief Jibril Rajoub With One-Year Ban for ‘Inciting Hatred and Violence’

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Palestinian FA chief Jibril Rajoub speaks during a news conference, in Ramallah, June 6, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.

More than a decade of incitement against Israel’s participation in world soccer by Jibril Rajoub — the former convicted terrorist who heads the Palestine Football Association (PFA) — backfired spectacularly on Friday, when soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, slapped him with a twelve-month ban.

Rajoub’s specific offense centered on his inflammatory comments toward Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi in June, when Argentina had been scheduled to play a pre-World Cup friendly against Israel in Jerusalem. The June 9 fixture was subsequently nixed, in large part because of the naked threats made by Rajoub, who warned that Messi was “a big symbol so we are going to target him personally and we call on all to burn his picture and his shirt and to abandon him.”

Following the cancellation of the game, Rajoub abruptly changed his tune, obsequiously thanking Messi and the Argentine FA for pulling out.

On Friday, FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee concluded that Rajoub had breached the organization’s disciplinary code with statements that “incited hatred and violence.”

Fining Rajoub 20,000 Swiss Francs — just over $20,000 — the committee declared: “The 12 month suspension imposed on Mr. Rajoub entails a ban on taking part in any future match or competition taking place in the given period.”

Attempting to pre-empt Rajoub’s regular practice of denouncing his enemies to the press, FIFA underlined that the ban extended to “media activities at stadiums or in their vicinity on match days.”

An ex-terrorist released in a 1985 prisoner exchange between Israel and an extremist Palestinian faction, Rajoub has straddled the worlds of politics and sports for more than a decade. He also heads the PA’s Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs and is the chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, in addition to his role with the Palestine FA. In the past, he served as a national security adviser to the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat, and was the head of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank from 1994 until 2002.

Rajoub has long used his sporting affiliations to promote a boycott of Israeli athletes and encourage terror against the Jewish state. In 2014, he violated the regulations of the International Olympic Committee, of which Israel is a member, by describing “normalization in sports with the Zionist enemy” as a “crime against humanity.” The following year, he pursued a failed campaign to expel Israel from FIFA, world soccer’s governing body.

A more recent effort to persuade FIFA to sanction six Israeli clubs based in the West Bank similarly failed after opposition from European soccer associations, causing Rajoub to opine that Palestinian soccer players were being made “scapegoats for what some European countries did against the Jews last century” — a reference to the Holocaust.

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