Hypocrisy and Double Standards: The FIFA Message to Palestine, the World

FIFA President Gianni Infantino. (Photo: UN, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Issam Khalidi

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the international sympathy with Ukraine illustrate the hypocrisy and double standards the West employs to handle this issue as opposed to the silence and superior handling of other issues in Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya.

FIFA and UEFA have prevented athletes and the public who support Palestine from mixing sports and politics, while sympathy for Ukraine has become part of the rituals of matches and ethics of these two organizations. The hypocrisy and double standards of the Western countries and their institutions have deeply disappointed us, although we had previously been aware of their positions. In response, many began reconsidering their dealings with these institutions, leading to a loss of respect for them.

The Russian tennis player Artem Dzyuba said he opposes any war, but he asked, “Why did they separate politics from sports for so long, and then, when it came to Russia, they forgot this principle.” Morals are indivisible, i.e., one cannot respect the feelings and rights of one group while ignoring or despising those of another group.

As a result, many people, including former Egyptian football star Mohamed Abu Treika, have called for sanctions against Israel, similar to those taken by FIFA and its European counterpart, UEFA, against Russia and its clubs. An announcer asked the Egyptian champion Ali Farag to talk about Ukraine when he won the Optasia squash championship in Britain. He replied:

We all see what’s going on in the world at the moment with Ukraine, and no one is happy with what’s going on. No one should accept any killings in the world or any oppression. We’ve never been allowed to speak about politics in sports but all in sudden it’s allowed. I hope people look at oppression everywhere around the world. Palestinians have been going through that for the past 74 years.”

The neutral” stance of FIFA on settlement clubs participating in the Israeli league confirms the essence of its leadership which is biased in favor of Israel and the Israeli lobby. In order to remain FIFA President, Gianni Infantino must abandon making principled decisions that might cause him headaches, upset his position, or threaten FIFA.

FIFA must give in to influential powers, such as the United States and Israeli lobby, such concessions being its refusal to impose any sanctions against the Israeli Football Federation, and its declaration that the “Territories” are a concern for international authorities, and FIFA must remain impartial. As a result, it is disregarding its own constitution and laws.

It is ironic to see FIFA focusing on the state of the sports facilities Qatar is building for the World Cup 2022, and to see it criticizing the ban on travel by the US to many Muslim-majority countries in 2017. Infantino criticized it, saying, When it comes to FIFA tournaments, any team that qualifies for the World Cup, including their fans and officials, must get a visa for the host country, or there will be no World Cup.”

Infantino also advocates against social ills and threats to the integrity of football in Europe, including racism, discrimination, violence, hooliganism, and match-fixing. FIFA’s position reminds us of Western countries, in general, that call for justice and democracy but ignore it in their dealings with Israel.

In the 1930s, when there was a conflict in the Palestine sports arena between the Zionist-dominated Football Association PFA and the (Arab) Palestinian Sports Federation, which was founded in 1931 and re-established in 1944, FIFA did not hide its bias toward the first and its superior dealings with the second.

In 1937, Khader Kamal, president of the Arab Sports Club in Jerusalem, requested FIFA to allow Arab teams to compete with those from Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria, at a time when Arab Palestinian teams were not members of the PFA. Afterward, FIFA’s secretary sent a letter to the PFA informing them about Kamal’s request, mentioning that he had given no recommendation to these gentlemen in relation to Arabs and Kader Kamal.

From European and international organizations, it is not surprising to see such positions that sanctified colonialism and helped pave the way for building the Jewish national home. Racist language and superior treatment of the “backward” East by the “civilized” West have always been present, treating the East as an inferior species not worthy of respect, but of contempt, and uncivilized people who are devoid of any potential for growth or progress.

Throughout history, racism, hypocrisy, and injustice have been closely interconnected. FIFA – as well as other Western countries – are suddenly sympathetic to Ukraine, as well as ignoring Palestine, probably because Ukrainians are civilized, have blue eyes, and live next door, as some Europeans have pointed out, unfortunately.

- Issam Khalidi is an independent scholar, is the author of History of Sports in Palestine 1900-1948 (in Arabic), One Hundred Years of Football in Palestine (in Arabic and English), co-edited  Soccer in the Middle East, as well as articles and essays on the subject of sports included at
www.hpalestinesports.net. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.
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