When FIFA Abandons Its Principles for the Satisfaction of Israel

A protest calling on FIFA to suspend Israel's membership. (Photo: via MEMO)

By Issam Khalidi

Sport has never been isolated from social, economic or political aspects. Certainly, the existence of sport outside the political arena is rare, and in many cases, we see the overlap between sport and politics so that it is impossible to separate each other, especially in situations such as Palestine.

Today we see the Israel Football Association and the International Federation of Football (FIFA) are calling to keep politics out of football, the former is seeking to justify its arbitrary behavior against Palestinians and Palestinian sports, while the latter wants to justify his apparent bias to the Israeli lobby about the participation of Israeli settlement teams in the Israeli Football Federation.

This was confirmed at the meeting of the FIFA in Kolkata, India, on October 27, 2017, when it announced that it must remain neutral on political matters; that it refrains from imposing any sanctions or other measures against the Israeli or Palestinian Football Federation.

In its Congress in Bahrain in May 2017 FIFA removed from the meeting agenda a resolution that would have urged Israel’s football federation to stop sponsoring clubs based in settlements in the illegally occupied West Bank. Though FIFA guidelines ban national associations from registering teams on other associations’ territories. This came after Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned the FIFA president Gianni Infantino in a phone call on May 7, 2017, that the Palestinian resolution could “ruin FIFA”, Haaretz reported. “The Palestinian conflict is long term and FIFA isn’t going to solve it,” Netanyahu told the FIFA president, according to the Israeli newspaper.

To be impartial in issues related to the clubs of the settlements, FIFA has confirmed and insisted on standing by the occupation. It is clear that FIFA, which runs the affairs of football around the world, and its president are under the influence of the Zionist lobby. This institution does not stand on a strong moral basis to make it qualified to win the respect of many in the world.

Certainly, if this institution applies and practices the values and principles it had set for itself since its founding, it would not have taken such a position.

FIFA is not independent in making its decisions. It is violating its own laws that stipulate clubs are not allowed to play in another country’s territory without the latter’s permission. Moreover, it refused to listen to the United Nations that such settlements were illegal in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

Surprisingly, FIFA and the European Football Federation (UEFA) banned clubs in the Crimea from participating in the Russian league after the president of the Ukrainian Football Association (FFA) asked FIFA to punish the Russian Football Federation. It is clear that FIFA is imposing its laws on Russia, and refuses to impose them to Israel, claiming that  resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is beyond its ability; that any interference by FIFA in the status quo of football in the relevant ‘territories’ without the consent of the parties concerned might aggravate the situation of football not only in the territories in question but also in the greater region affected – which would not be in the best interests of the game. At the same time, FIFA is fully aware that Israeli settlements on the occupied territories are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Sport has nothing to do with politics’, this argument has always been echoed by the Zionists since the time of the Mandate, and they are still repeating it to this day. In fact, they were and still linking politics to sports if this serves their interests, and against it, if it poses a danger to them. During the mandate, the Zionists used sports to achieve their political goals by dominating the sports movement in Palestine, marginalizing the Arabs and representing Palestine regionally and internationally so it could look ‘Jewish’.

In the 1960s, Israel stood in front of the admission of the Palestine Football Associated (established in 1962) in Gaza Strip to the International Football Association FIFA, and stood in front of the entry of other Palestinian federations in the international federations under the pretext that the Gaza Strip, which was under the Egyptian administration had no legal status as a state. This was repeated again in the 1970s and 1980s when Palestine tried to be admitted to FIFA.

Today, Israel accuses Palestinians of mixing sports and politics when Palestinians demand that Israeli settlement clubs not to participate in the Israeli league, calling that the Israeli Football Federation be dismissed from FIFA because of Israel’s arbitrary practices against Palestinian sports.

In fact, the problem is not about politics and sport, but in using politics as a method of deceit, especially when deception has become part of the Zionist mentality; a habit and practices followed by successive Israeli leaders. Moshe Sharett, Israel’s first Foreign Minister and later a Prime Minister once said:

“I have learned that the state of Israel cannot be ruled in our generation without deceit and adventurism.”

– Issam Khalidi is an independent scholar living in Monterey,  California, 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 (Rutledge.), as well as articles and essays on the subject of sports included at www.hpalestinesports.net He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. 

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