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Palestinians urged FIFA to sanction Israeli teams. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

I ask you to stand on the right side of history and vote now. The suffering of millions, including thousands of footballers, deserves as much, if not now, then when? Mr. President, the ball is in your court.”

World football body FIFA has ordered an independent legal assessment of a request by the Palestinian Football Association to suspend Israel over its ongoing genocidal onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

“FIFA will mandate as of now, independent legal expertise to analyze and assess the three requests made by the Palestinian Football Association and ensure the statutes of FIFA are applied in the correct way,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced on Friday at the organization’s annual congress in Bangkok.

Earlier, the PFA President Jibril Rajoub made an impassioned plea to the delegates from 211 member associations to hold a vote to suspend Israel from FIFA.

“Today I stand before you once again to address the systematic violations of FIFA laws and regulations, which the Palestinian Football Association has been subjected to over many years. I have repeatedly spoken against Israeli violations of our rights, including the Israeli Football Association’s inclusion of illegal settlement clubs in the game,” Rajoub said.

“I urge you to recall the images and sounds and consider the data depicting the immense devastation currently taking place in Palestine, particularly in Gaza, that has destroyed or severely damaged every foot,” he added.

I ask you to stand on the right side of history and vote now. The suffering of millions, including thousands of footballers, deserves as much, if not now, then when? Mr. President, the ball is in your court.”

Urgent Situation

Infantino stressed that “In order to ensure a fair and due process of course, this legal assessment will have to allow for inputs and claims of both members’ associations.”

He said the results of the analysis and the recommendations which will follow from this analysis will subsequently be forwarded to the FIFA Council.

“But due to the urgency of the situation, because we all know and all understand how urgent it is, an extraordinary FIFA council will be convened and take place before the 20th July of this year, to review the results of the legal assessment and to take decisions that are appropriate,” Infantino explained.

The Israeli Football Association called Rajoub’s proposal “hostile and blatant,” and based on motives “that have nothing to do with the spirit of sports.”

193 Players Killed

Rajoub stressed that the entire Palestinian people, including the Palestinian football family, are suffering from an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. He also highlighted the use of football stadiums by Israeli forces as concentration camps “to detain and humiliate thousands of Palestinians who were paraded almost naked on television screens.”

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 35,303 Palestinians have been killed, and 79,261 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Rajoub said amongst those killed were 193 football players, adding that detentions and restrictions on movement forced the PFA  to suspend football leagues in Palestine and it affected setting up camps for the national team abroad to participate in FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

In March, the PFA submitted a proposal, supported by six member associations, to FIFA to discuss Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians during the FIFA Congress scheduled to take place on May 17 in Thailand.

The proposal “calls for immediate sanctions against Israeli teams over unprecedented violations of human rights committed by the Israeli occupation in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip,” the PFA said at the time.

‘Different Yardstick’ for Israel

The call by the PFA came as up to 60 rights groups accused FIFA of applying “a different yardstick to Israeli actions” which undermines its credibility and exposes the world football body “to allegations of political bias and hypocrisy.”

In a letter to FIFA, the groups demanded “the immediate suspension of Israeli football teams from all competitions in light of its ongoing genocide” in the Gaza Strip.

The organizations stressed that it was “surprising that while both UEFA and FIFA suspended Russia from all competitions in 2022, they continue to turn a blind eye to Israel with the result that its teams continue to participate freely in international competitions.”

The organizations urged FIFA to do “the right thing and apply the same sanctions to Israel that you have done in the case of Russia.”

Long before October 7, Palestinian football players were targeted by the Israeli military, often killed, wounded, and detained under various excuses.

Palestinian football teams, including the national team, have often been prevented from moving freely between the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza.

Gaza players have been repeatedly prevented from joining the national team squad in regional and international matches.

FIFA is the international governing body for football and seeks to develop the game around the world. But the organization also aims to “embrace its responsibility to respect human rights across its operations and relationships,” according to its website.

The world body suspended the South African FA from international competition in 1965 and expelled it from the association in 1976, due to its policy of apartheid. The country returned to the world stage after 16 years.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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