After Indonesia Removal, the Palestinian Authority Turns Against FIFA
by Maurice Hirsch
Never missing an opportunity to be on the wrong side of history and morality, even in sports, the Palestinian Authority(PA) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s Palestine Higher Council of Youth and Sports, headed by Jibril Rajoub, have expressed support for the Indonesian boycott of Israel and “regret” over the decision by the Fédération internationale de football association’s (FIFA) to remove Indonesia as the host of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023, due to the country’s bias against Israel.
The biennial U-20 World Cup tournament was originally scheduled for late 2021, but was postponed until 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Indonesia retaining the hosting rights it had been granted in 2019. The competition was to run from May to June 2023 in six locations across Indonesia, including Bali. Last week, Bali governor Wayan Koster called for a ban on the Israeli team playing there, citing Indonesia’s support for the Palestinian cause.
With the date of the competition quickly approaching, FIFA left no room for the Indonesian boycott of Israel. On March 29, FIFA made this statement: “Following today’s meeting between FIFA President Gianni Infantino and President of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) Erick Thohir, FIFA has decided, due to the current circumstances, to remove Indonesia as the host of the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2023.”
Supporting Indonesia, the PA Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted that it “welcomes Indonesia’s principled position”:
A press statement of the Palestine Higher Council of Youth and Sports was less diplomatic, and while feigning to adopt the principle of separating politics and sports, it charged FIFA with double standards.
“Though we believe sports and politics need to be separated [it’s] sad to see the double standards employed by the civilized world in response to similar scenarios when performed by different actors.”
[Official PA news agency, Wafa (in English), Mar. 30, 2023]
For more than a decade, the PA, the Palestine Higher Council of Youth and Sports, and Jibril Rajoub have been trying to embroil FIFA in its conflict against Israel.
For many years, the Palestinians managed to recruit FIFA against Israel and the Israeli Football Association (IFA), until groups such as Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) joined the fight.
As a special FIFA-appointed committee was set to recommend sanctioning the IFA, PMW launched a two-pronged assault. On the one hand, PMW prepared a detailed indictment against the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) and Jibril Rjoub (who also heads the PA football association). In the indictment, submitted to FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee, PMW documented that for years the PFA and Rajoub had been openly and brazenly breaching FIFA regulations by promoting and glorifying terrorism, inciting hatred and violence, promoting racism, and preventing the use of football as a bridge to peace.
Meanwhile, PMW also submitted a detailed defense brief in which we showed that the Palestinian claims that the IFA was in breach of FIFA’s rules lacked any factual basis. Following PMW’s submissions, FIFA initially postponed the decision regarding the IFA, until it finally announced, in October 2017, that it would reject the Palestinian claims: “The FIFA Council has decided to refrain from imposing any sanctions or other measures on either the Israel FA or the Palestinian FA, as well as from requesting any other FIFA body to do so. The matter is declared closed…”
A year later, following an additional PMW complaint, it was Rajoub whom FIFA decided to sanction. In response to FIFA’s decision, Rajoub lashed out, accusing PMW director Itamar Marcus of being the Goebbels of the 21st century:
They are waging this war on all fronts. There’s Palestinian Media Watch, whose director is Goebbels — Goebbels, Hitler’s ideological theorist … He is the Goebbels of the 21st century. He prepared an indictment against me … I traveled to Latin America, and every place I go, believe me, he spreads these accusations. He submitted a complaint to the Olympic Committee, he submitted a complaint to FIFA, and when I traveled to the US — he also spread [his accusations] in the US. The only thing he does is to deal with me.
[Official PA TV Live, Sept. 3, 2018]
Unfortunately, instead of joining the global appreciation of sports as a bridge for peace, the PA, the PLO and Palestinian leaders like Rajoub, use sports as just another opportunity to spread hatred, racism, and rejectionism, and as an alternative avenue to promote, incite, and glorify terror.
Maurice Hirsch, Adv. is the Head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, where a version of this article first appeared.