Members of Israel's national soccer squad..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An international petition with almost 150,000 signature is demanding that FIFA force the Israel Football Association (IFA) to eliminate the six Israeli clubs based in West Bank settlements from competing in its national leagues.
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 global soccer body to ban Israel from the organization.
A petition on the website avaaz.org, an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization, calls on FIFA to “either remove the settlement football clubs from its membership or relocates 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... 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 IFA.
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 asked.
It is not so easy to suspend an association from FIFA, he said, as he noted that it would need a vote of 75% of the member states who belong to the organization.
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 the Ukraine and Russia, he said.
“I am not so worried that Israel is going to be suspended,” he said.