FIFA, let Israel play

By supporting Rajoub’s call to punish Israel, FIFA would be taking its first major political position by aligning itself with the anti-Israel, anti-peace and anti-democratic forces.

Soccer [Illustrative] (photo credit: INIMAGE)
Soccer [Illustrative]
(photo credit: INIMAGE)
The chairman of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), Jibril Rajoub, a convicted terrorist who continuously encourages terrorism against Israel, is calling for FIFA to punish and possibly expel Israel from FIFA. The stated reason for Rajoub’s initiative is that Israel allows five amateur teams that are located in disputed territories beyond the Green Line to be a part of the Israeli Football Association. The decision will be made during the FIFA Congress in Bahrain on May 11, 2017.
The call for the exclusion of Jewish sports teams is, to the Jewish people and their state, a painful reminder of a dark past. Throughout modern history, whenever antisemitism spreads and manifests, the calls for boycotting Jewish businesses and banning Jews from certain professions, including sports, are inevitable.
While criticism of Israel is not necessarily antisemitic, the double standard of singling out and only punishing Israel certainly is. There are over 200 disputed territories in the world, but only the disputed territory that involves the world’s only Jewish state is used as a reason for potential expulsion from FIFA.
Furthermore, when global conflicts since 1950 are ranked by the number of casualties, the Israeli- Arab conflict is in 49th place, yet the parties to the other 48 conflicts have not been considered for expulsion from FIFA. This irrefutable and astounding double standard is nothing short of a modern form of antisemitism: anti-Zionism.
Beyond the nature of the unfair initiative to punish Israel, FIFA and its members should seriously examine the man leading the initiative. Rajoub was sentenced to life in prison for throwing a grenade at an Israeli army truck in 1970 and was released after 15 years in a prisoner exchange. His behavior since his release shows that he is unabashedly unrepentant.
For the past decades, in various political and leadership positions, Rajoub has publicly and repeatedly incited to terrorism and violence against Israelis.
In 2013 Rajoub told Lebanese TV: “I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.”
During the current wave of stabbing and vehicular ramming terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, Rajoub has praised the attacks as “individual acts of bravery” on official Palestinian Authority TV.
Rajoub also uses his position as the chairman of PFA and the Palestine Olympic Committee to publicly encourage Palestinian youths to emulate terrorists responsible for cold-blooded murder of Israeli civilians. In 2014 Rajoub even condemned a successful peace building football match between Israeli and Palestinian youths as a “crime against humanity.” The examples of Rajoub’s glorification of terrorism are plentiful, and many can be found in “The Jibril Rajoub File” (July 27, 2016), authored by Jerusalem-based NGO Palestinian Media Watch.
All of the above should be taken under serious consideration when FIFA decides whether or not to support Rajoub’s anti-Israel initiative. FIFA and its members must realize that this initiative has nothing to do with sports, international law, or the well-being of Palestinians. The sole purpose of the initiative is for Rajoub to boost his own political career by demonizing Israel on the international stage.
The World Jewish Congress has therefore initiated a campaign that calls for FIFA to stay out of politics, vote against this discriminatory initiative, and let Israel play. FIFA, which represents football for millions of people, must not allow itself to become a political battleground in one of the world’s most complex and charged conflicts. FIFA should use the power of sports to bring people together instead of falling into Rajoub’s cynical, self-promotional trap that would harm Israelis as well as Palestinians.
By supporting Rajoub’s call to punish Israel, FIFA would be taking its first major political position by aligning itself with the anti-Israel, anti-peace and anti-democratic forces of the world that call for the boycott of Israel and its destruction. That would be a tragic decision by one of the most beloved organizations in the world.
The author is a member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a flagship program of the World Jewish Congress, and a board member of the Zionist Federation of Sweden. Follow him on Twitter: @GabRosenberg.