Membership of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) should be suspended until Israel respects the human rights of Palestinians and observes international law, thus enabling Palestinian footballers to play and compete nationally and internationally.
Since 1967, Israel has maintained a brutal military occupation of Palestine, building illegal settlements and a separation wall on stolen land, despite condemnation by the UN and International Court of Justice. Within Israel, over fifty laws discriminate against its Palestinian citizens. When influential sports organizations say nothing in the face of an injustice of such magnitude they are complicit.
Commercial and cultural actions worldwide are increasingly demanding an end to Israel’s repressive policies.
It is now time for sports initiatives to add their voice.
The Israeli occupation specifically impacts on Palestinian football by restricting movement of players within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Gaza, and preventing them from taking part in international competitions. Israel limits imports of vital sporting equipment. Players have been harassed, detained, imprisoned and killed.
There is blatant well-documented racism within Israeli football. Players of Palestinian origin suffer insults from the terraces: Beitar Jerusalem football club is arguably worse than any in Europe with chants of ‘Death to Arabs’ and arson attacks. Any efforts made by the IFA to stop this abuse have been ineffective.
In 2013, footballers like Eric Cantona, Frederic Kanoute and 50 other international players challenged UEFA’s decision to hold the Men’s U-21 tournament in Israel. Eminent human rights activists questioned how an organisation that clearly promotes anti-racism can place a major competition in an openly racist country. Yet UEFA still plans to hold the U-19 Women’s final there in 2015 and may consider Israel as a venue for preliminary matches in Euro 2020.
FIFA has recognized some Israeli abuses and created a Task Force aimed at facilitating the movement of players and equipment. But its success depends on the goodwill of the Israeli Defence Forces.
When FIFA formally suspended the membership of the South African FA between 1964 and 1992, its action contributed to international pressure to end apartheid.
Therefore, the petition asks FIFA to follow this precedent and suspend the Israeli FA. The Israeli government must at some point take notice.
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