The international soccer organization FIFA has launched an investigation of the chairman of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), Jibril Rajoub, for breaching the body’s ethics code.
The investigation is based on evidence submitted to FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which found that Rajoub and the PFA have been promoting and glorifying terrorism; inciting hatred and violence; promoting racism; and preventing the use of the game of soccer to build a bridge for peace.
The situation came to a head on January 8, nearly two years after PMW submitted its complaint to the international football organization in 2017.
A letter from FIFA’s chief of investigation in the ethics committee, Martin Nagoga, to Rajoub – which is dated January 2019 and leaked earlier this month by a pro-Palestinian media site – states that Rajoub needs to respond individually to each of the points he disputes.
“To the extent that you dispute any part of the... complaint and allegations, you are hereby requested to submit a statement identifying every point in the complaint allegations that you dispute; an explanation of why you dispute each such point; a description of any and all additional facts you contend, clarify, contradict, or are otherwise relevant to the issue or point in dispute; and all documents, records, or data within your possession, custody, or control that support your position,” the letter stated.
Nagoga wrote that there is “prima facie evidence” based on PMW’s “Kick Terror Out of Football” complaint that “you may have committed violations of the FCE [FIFA Ethics Code] in your position as President of the Palestinian Football Association.”
In the leaked letter, Nagoga said Rajoub had been accused of “personally” promoting and glorifying terrorist in an “active and... passive manner.”
This includes several soccer events that had PFA backing or organized by Rajoub that bared the name of terrorists, as well as several soccer teams that were named after terrorists and terrorist organizations that had killed Israeli citizens.
The letter also said that Rajoub is being accused of making statements in which he encouraged Hamas to kidnap soldiers.
Nagoga requested that Rajoub respond by January 18. Rajoub’s response has not been publicized.
Following the leak of the letter, PMW director Itamar Marcus said he welcomed “FIFA’s decision to open an investigation into Jibril Rajoub’s conduct as Head of the Palestinian Football Association.”
“It is demeaning for FIFA to allow a terrorist supporter who uses vile racist language to have any position attached to FIFA’s good name,” Marcus continued. “Instead of using the beautiful game to build bridges and promote peace and coexistence, Rajoub uses his position to incite violence and to promote and glorify terrorism. I am hopeful that FIFA will now, once and for all, permanently remove Rajoub from any position in FIFA, and cleanse this stain on international football.”
IN MAY 2017, PMW submitted a complaint to FIFA entitled “Kick Terror Out of Football,” which Nagoga’s investigatory letter is based upon.
It stated that the PFA and its president Jibril Rajoub “regularly violate FIFA’s Statutes and Disciplinary Code by using Palestinian football as a vehicle to glorify and honor terrorist murderers; inciting hatred and violence; promoting racism; and prohibiting the use of sports as a bridge for peace between Palestinians and Israelis.” PMW wrote that these action violate several articles in the FIFA Statutes and Articles as well as in its Disciplinary Code.
In the PMW complaint, Rajoub “is outspoken in his promotion and glorification of terrorists and terrorism.”
The 2017 complaint explained how Rajoub has honored terrorist murderers, calling them “sacred,” including convicted Palestinian plane hijacker Leila Khalid and terrorist Abu Sukkar – who planned and carried out a 1975 bombing in Jerusalem in which 15 people were killed and over 60 people wounded – among many others.
The complaint took these points further. PMW submitted evidence that shows how in October 2015, just after the wave of stabbing attacks began, “instead of using his influence to calm the murderous atmosphere” Rajoub “chose to promote and glorify terrorism and terrorists.”
PMW charged that in an interview broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV on October 17, 2015, Rajoub, “referring directly to the terrorists said, ‘These are individual acts of bravery, and I am proud of them. I congratulate everyone who carried them out. I say to you, we are proud of you.’”
This is not the first time Rajoub has been disciplined by the football umbrella body.
In August last year, FIFA fined Rajoub 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,340) and banned from matches for a year by FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee for threatening Lionel Messi, the star striker of the Argentine soccer team.
At the time, Rajoub had urged fans to burn pictures and shirts of Messi if he played in a friendly soccer game against Israel in Jerusalem that was eventually canceled.
Rajoub and the PFA has also made several appeals and attempts to FIFA to have Israel’s Football Association sanctioned.
In a 2018, FIFA’s World Congress rejected the PFA’s call to amend its constitution with language that seemingly targets Israel.
In the vote, 156 opposed the move while 35 were in favor. As a result, FIFA’s congress voted against the PFA proposal.
Gil Hoffman and Hagay Hacohen contributed to this report.
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