Jibril Rajoub in his office in Ramallah on December 7, 2015.
(photo credit: ELIYAHU KAMISHER)
The international soccer organization FIFA announced on Wednesday that it would be taking disciplinary steps against Jibril Rajoub, chairman of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), for threatening Lionel Messi, the star striker of the Argentinian soccer team.
Palestinian soccer chief says fans should burn Messi's shirt if he plays against Israel in Jerusalem, June 3, 2018 (Reuters)
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 canceled. Pro-Palestinian protesters had also demonstrated outside practices of the Argentinian team in Spain.
Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev called Rajoub a terrorist, and said she felt vindicated by the decision.
She had said that the cancellation was due to the threats against Messi, while her political opponents charged that it was because she moved the game from Haifa to Jerusalem.
“Rajoub has made the soccer playing field into a battlefield,” Regev told the Knesset plenum after holding up a poster of Palestinian threats against Messi. “The Argentinians wanted the game to be in Jerusalem and FIFA wanted it to be in Jerusalem, so those who said it was canceled because of Jerusalem and not terror threats must apologize.”
After being heckled by opposition MKs, who still blamed her for the game’s cancellation, Regev went on the offensive against them.
“Bloodthirsty journalists who don’t care about the truth, and opposition MKs who are disconnected from reality tried to hang me in the town square,” she charged.
This is not the first time Israel was targeted by the PFA nor was it the first time Rajoub was vocal about the Israel Football Association (IFA). Last week, The IFA planned to file a formal complaint with FIFA over the cancellation of a friendly match between Israel and Argentina, which the latter association was using as a World Cup warm-up.
FIFA’s World Congress rejected the PFA’s call to amend its constitution with language that seemingly targets Israel.
In a vote of 156 opposed (82% of those voting) to 35 in favor, FIFA’s congress voted decidedly against the PFA proposal, which would add a clause to Article 3 of FIFA’s constitution. The amendment called for repercussions against countries, saying that: “Failure to recognize, respect, protect, guarantee and defend human rights in accordance with international standards, as well as any violation of them, is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.”
“The ritual repeats itself every time, when Rajoub tries to bring about decisions in FIFA against our football and the State of Israel,” IFA Chairman Ofer Eini said in a statement posted on the association’s website.
“Thanks to the right and informed work, we are able to explain to friends and friends in FIFA what really lies behind the seemingly innocent proposals of those who crossed every redline.
We have true friends in UEFA [The Union of European Football Associations], the other confederations and in FIFA, and Rajoub has failed time after time. Israeli football will continue to be part of the international community, and the State of Israel will continue to enjoy great sympathy in the World Football Association.”
The organization said in a Facebook post on June 7 that it was disheartened by the cancellation and was looking to take steps against Rajoub.
“The Association views with severity the physical and brutal threats that crossed every redline made by Palestinian Football Association chair Jibril Rajoub,” the IFA said. “The chair will send a letter today to FIFA President Gianni Infantino demanding punishment for those who want to harm soccer players and those who torpedoed a friendly match between the two teams.”