29 May 2015

Fifa congress: Palestine drops motion to suspend Israel

Palestine’s football association drops its motion asking for Israel, which it accuses of racism and preventing the free movement of Palestinian athletes, to be suspended from Fifa.

The scandal-hit Fifa congress – which has also seen pro-Palestinian protests both inside and outside the event’s venue – had been due to vote on the Palestinian proposal to kick Israel out of international football.

PFA President Jibril Rajoub cited three main reasons for Israel’s exclusion from Fifa.

He accused Israeli clubs of racism against Palestinians, accused the country of preventing the free movement of Palestinian athletes, and raised the issue of five Israeli football clubs being located on Palestinian territory.

‘Plastic surgeon’

Mr Rajoub said he had been persuaded to back down, but said that does not mean he will “give up the resistance”.

His resistance includes demands that Fifa set up a “mechanism to monitor what is going on on the ground” and a request that Fifa refer the issue of Israeli clubs on Palestinian territory to the United Nations.

Addressing the Israeli Football Association (IFA), he said: “I think you should not play some kind of plastic doctor or surgeon to try and defend and whiten the ugly face of a racist occupation.”

He also told the IFA that he was “ready to shake hands, to hug”.

The PFA has also previously complained that harsh import restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinian territories, especially since the Gaza conflict last summer, meant equipment was being prevented from reaching players.

More than 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza conflict, around 70 per cent of whom were civilians, and thousands of homes were destroyed. Sixty six Israeli soldiers and six civilians were killed by Hamas militants.

‘Bridge to peace’

Mr Rajoub’s Israeli counterpart, Ofer Eini, said he wanted to “cooperate” with the PFA.

“I think that football must serve as a bridge to peace – peace that we all want,” he said.

However, he rejected the call for referring the territorial issue to the UN, saying “any dispute we have inside Fifa must be resolved inside Fifa”.

He then walked to the PFA delegation for the handshake.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have been camped outside the Hallenstadion in Zurich. Earlier in the day some protesters were prevented by security from entering the conference venue, and two female protesters were evicted after interrupting Sepp Blatter whilst waving a Palestine flag (see video, above).