Jibril Rajoub is the head of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) as well as the Palestine Olympic committee. As head of the PFA, he tabled a motion at the Federation of International Football Association’s (FIFA) general assembly to have Israel suspended from the association. As we all know by now, last Friday Rajoub essentially lost and due to behindthe- scenes maneuvering had to retract his motion. Israel continues as a full member of FIFA.
The Israeli media had a ball in the days leading up to the finale.
Ousting Israel from FIFA was portrayed as a very serious challenge to Israel and if successful, a harbinger of future boycotts. The motion was portrayed as a result of the Palestinians losing hope for any “progress” with the new Likud government.
The nuance was that the “occupation” and lack of willingness of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “negotiate” with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was the real reason underlying Rajoub’s actions.
Who is Jibril Rajoub? A simple Internet search will quickly reveal that he is a convicted terrorist. In 1970, he was sentenced by Israel to life in prison for throwing a grenade at an Israeli army truck. On May 21, 1985, Israel released 1,150 prisoners as part of an agreement with Ahmed Jibril and his terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, for the return of three captured Israeli soldiers.
One of the released terrorists was Rajoub.
Shortly thereafter, he was re-arrested for a period of seven months.
He was imprisoned for another seven months in September of 1986, for militant activity. This did not end his struggle against Israel.
He was again arrested in December 1987 in the wake of the first intifada and deported to Lebanon in January 1988.
Rajoub used his time in Israeli prison to learn Hebrew and study Israeli history. His political astuteness should not be underestimated.
He is considered by Israel’s Left as one of those Palestinians with whom it is possible to “make peace.”
As reported by Lily Galili in Haaretz, on September 14, 2004, Rajoub, in a joint interview with Dr. Yossi Beilin, stated that “the Palestinians recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish state within the 1967 borders, and do not aspire to change its demographic balance drastically.” This was part of a media campaign by the “Geneva Initiative” headed by Beilin, aimed at convincing the Israeli public that there are genuine partners for peace within the Palestinian leadership.
None of this background was to be heard or seen on our radio and TV sets. The central issue that was discussed was whether the Israeli delegation would manage to be convincing enough to prevent the vote from passing. That is not to say that all Israelis were blind to Rajoub’s background or his current support for terrorist activity. Shurat Hadin (The Israel Law Center), headed by attorney Nitsana Darshan- Leitner, demanded that FIFA expel Rajoub on the grounds that he was inciting terrorism. In a letter sent to Joseph Blatter, FIFA’s former president, Darshan-Leitner noted that Rajoub has glorified attacks by Fatah and the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades against Israel.
She quoted Rajoub saying to Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen television station that Israel is “our enemy and our battle is against them.” Furthermore, Rajoub, who is also deputy secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, stated that the resistance should be fought by all means and using all weapons, as for example in that same May 2013 interview when he declared: “I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.” Rajoub has also praised Hamas for firing 4,000 rockets at Israel this past summer.
Darshan-Leitner noted that all this is an open breach of FIFA’s standards of conduct and demanded that Rajoub be expelled from FIFA.
This was not the only attempt.
The Mattot Arim organization, under the leadership of Susie Dym, documented many of the racist and terrorist statements emanating from Rajoub. He openly called for the “slaughtering of settlers” on the Awdah TV channel on August 13, 2014, as documented by Palestinian Media Watch. A fencing match named after arch-terrorist Abu Jihad took place under the auspices of Rajoub. He was caught live in May 2012 by PalWatch stating that “Jews are the incarnation of the devil, Zionist sons of whores.”
Mattot Arim also called for the dismissal of Rajoub from FIFA.
Yet none of this came to the forefront of our mainstream broadcast media (whether Israel’s official representatives presented any of this damaging material to FIFA is another matter), neither via television nor the Reshet Bet and Galatz radio stations. Yediot Aharonot dedicated its first two pages to the drama – but not a word about Rajoub’s history. Why was this information withheld? In fact the radio stations made it a point on Sunday morning to interview Rajoub, giving him full freedom to continue his diatribe against us. For example, on Reshet Bet, he stated that the present Israeli government is racist. His interviewer, Gal Berger, did not even utter a murmur of protest.
Our media, however, did make it a point to remind us all that FIFA is only an opening shot and that we should expect more to come. This theme appeared on the TV screens and on radio. Chico Menashe, the political commentator of Kol Yisrael, excelled in his dire warnings.
This same kind of biased reporting and hiding of facts characterizes the coverage of Israel’s decision regarding the natural gas companies.
Professor David Gilo, Israel’s antitrust commissioner, resigned after his recommendations for regulating the gas companies were not accepted by the government. Gilo insisted on creating open competition between the gas companies.
The government decided that this would lead to a further delay in the production of gas, would create losses for the economy and would violate the agreements signed with the gas companies prior to exploration.
Here, too, sufficient background was not provided. We need remember that the Netanyahu government and then-finance minister Yuval Steinitz already broke the agreements with the gas companies, levying higher taxes than were agreed upon. The initial contracts were not signed by the Netanyahu government nor was it responsible for them. The whole idea that previous agreements can be renegotiated is rather problematic. Yet Arieh Golan on his morning radio program only interviewed MK Miki Rosenthal (Labor) who, of course, was against the government.
It is high time that our media stop being political and instead provide the public with information and allow us to make our own political decisions. Defending the “good name” of Rajoub only because he is associated to some minor extent with the Geneva Initiative is unprofessional journalism.
Criticizing the government just for the sake of criticism, or worse, to support a political or economic outlook, is unethical. We deserve better.
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).