Over 170 clubs send letter ahead of congress meeting
Ahead of a Fifa council meeting today between the Israel-Palestine Monitoring Committee, 174 Palestinian clubs have sent a letter to Fifa demanding they immediately suspend the Israeli Football Association’s (IFA) membership for its inclusion of seven football clubs that are based in illegal settlements.
Fifa’s council will meet and decide on its approach at Thursday’s congress, though there is still no report in the agenda from the monitoring committee, which was initially due last October.
The committee, led by Tokyo Sexwale, has missed multiple deadlines, the last being in March, and should Fifa fail to act against the settlement clubs it risks shifting the dispute to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The letter calls on Fifa to “uphold human rights and implement Fifa statutes without discrimination at the upcoming congress on May 11,” while cautioning that: “Palestinian football rights, Fifa’s reputation as champion of human rights” depend on Fifa’s decision in this regard.
Dr Andreas Zimmermann of the Potsdam Centre for Human Rights gave his expert legal opinion on the settlement clubs last month in which he stated: “There is obviously an important inherent value in keeping politics out of sports.
Yet, any decision by Fifa not to follow the international community’s recognition of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory, and to disregard the illegality of the Israeli settlements under international law, would itself be quintessentially political and would contribute to the continued violation of international law.
“By not taking action, it would be Fifa that would take a political decision.”
This comes after Fifa president Gianni Infantino spoke of his desire for “a football solution, not a political solution” to the issue, which was initially raised at last May’s Fifa Congress, when Infantino promised to visit Israel and Palestine in a bid to start negotiation efforts but has yet to do so.
The letter also urges Fifa to once again take this “historic opportunity” to show a serious commitment to human rights after their “historic role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa when it expelled the South African Football Association at its 1976 congress.”
The Palestinian FA has spent the last two years demanding that its Israeli counterpart stop including clubs located in the occupied Palestinian territories in its leagues and competitions, which the IFA continues to ignore.
Human Rights Watch have pointed out that the IFA’s support for the relevant clubs — and Fifa’s tolerance of this — is a breach of international law.