(photo credit: INIMAGE)
An international petition with almost 150,000 signatures has demanded that FIFA force the Israel Football Association to eliminate six of its clubs that are based in West Bank settlements.
The six settlements are Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Givat Ze’ev, Oranit, the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills and Kiryat Arba.
It’s the latest move in a continued campaign by left-wing activists in Israel and abroad as well as the Palestinian Authority to force the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to drop Israel from the major international soccer organization.
A petition on the website avaaz.org, an independent global campaigning nonprofit, called on FIFA to “either remove the settlement football clubs from its membership or relocate them outside the illegal settlements.”
“If the Israeli Football Association doesn’t comply it must lose its membership with FIFA, as has been the case with other federations that have refused to accept FIFA’s fair play rules.
“There should be zero tolerance for the six teams that flagrantly ignore international law and operate in occupied territory. Settlement football teams legitimize the illegal occupation and condone the suffering the Palestinians face as a result,” the petition stated.
It argued that according to FIFA by-laws, since both Israeli and Palestinian leagues belong to the organization, one league can’t make use of land that belongs to the country of the other’s league.
“If enough of us raise our voices” then “we could push FIFA to hold the Israeli Football Association accountable,” the petition stated.
The PA led a failed drive at the 65th FIFA Congress in 2015 to suspend the Israeli soccer league.
A compromise was worked out, through which a monitoring committee was created to oversee issues affecting the development of soccer in the Palestinian territories. The committee is headed by South African government minister Tokyo Sexwale. He headed a FIFA delegation that visited Israel and the Palestinian territories earlier this month.
Israel Football Association spokesman Shlomi Barzel said he did not believe the drive to push his club out of FIFA would be successful.
The petition’s numbers sound large, but “we are talking about 150,000 out of how many people in the world?” he wondered.
It is not so easy to suspend a club from FIFA, he said, as he noted that it would need a vote of 75 percent of the member states who belong to the organization.
According to Barzel, FIFA is a sports organization and does not want to be politicized. If it suspends Israel because of territorial disputes, other countries will immediately line up with a similar request, such as Ukraine and Russia, he explained.
“I am not so worried that Israel is going to be suspended,” he said.