FIFA shouldn’t single out Israel for expulsion

Palestinian Football Association systematically exploits football to encourage terrorism against Israelis.

Jurgen Muller, Head of Planning and Infrastructure and Head of FIFA World Cup 2022, speaks during World Stadium Congress 2016, in Doha, Qatar May 17, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM AL OMARI)
Jurgen Muller, Head of Planning and Infrastructure and Head of FIFA World Cup 2022, speaks during World Stadium Congress 2016, in Doha, Qatar May 17, 2016
Indications are strong that the Palestinian Football Association intends once again to call for the expulsion of the Israeli Football Association from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association at the international football association’s council meeting in Kolkata on Friday, following its failed attempt to do so at the FIFA Congress last May. This action is nothing short of a cynical attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel and is a cause that demands international attention and intervention.
The PFA’s case is based on false claims, blatant bias, and absurd hypocrisy. Firstly, the PFA’s erroneous claims that the IFA is in breach of FIFA statutes by the inclusion of six amateur teams based in the disputed West Bank territories are based on the PFA’s purposeful misreading of the statutes.
UK Lawyers for Israel has systematically analyzed these claims and stated clearly in its recent report that the PFA’s interpretation of Articles 72(2) and 73 of the FIFA statutes is “plainly incorrect and impractical.”
The provisions regarding “territory” in the FIFA statutes clearly refer to areas in which an association operates. The PFA has never operated in the West Bank territory that it refers to as disputed, and as such can have no claims against IFA when it comes to the teams in question in this area. The territory may be disputed politically, but in terms of FIFA’s statutes, it is unquestionably under the jurisdiction of the IFA.
Secondly, the argument whether to sanction or ban a member of FIFA over disputed territories is in itself highly political, and in the case of Israel unambiguously singular. There are more than 200 disputed territories in the world, yet only Israel is targeted for condemnation and possible expulsion. If adopted, the PFA’s motion would set a dangerous precedent and catapult FIFA into a political tool that could be used in more than 200 conflicts around the world.
Thirdly, the level of hypocrisy displayed by the PFA is astronomical. As the PFA, its officials and its members seek to delegitimize the IFA and the State of Israel, they also systematically exploit football to encourage terrorism against Israelis, simultaneously naming tournaments and youth camps after well-known Palestinian terrorists and praising them as heroes.
This is no hyperbole. During the last FIFA Congress, the PFA supervised a football tournament named after Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir), the arch-terrorist responsible for the murder of 125 Israelis. In a submitted complaint to FIFA, UK Lawyers for Israel lists 23 occasions in the last four years when the PFA glorified terrorists and terrorism.
To advocate for the expulsion of Israel from FIFA because of the location of six amateur teams, while using sports as a tool to encourage the mass-murder of innocent Israelis, is in fact beyond hypocrisy – it is downright scandalous.
FIFA and its member associations should reject any discriminatory resolution against Israel and make it clear to the PFA that FIFA refuses to become a political battleground in one of the world’s most charged conflicts. Sports should be used to bring people together, not for cynical political campaigns.
Members of the FIFA Council have an opportunity to put an end to the PFA’s destructive agenda, which goes against everything that football stands for, particularly joy, solidarity and fellowship. It’s time to stop the PFA’s anti-Israel initiative and let Israel play.
The writer is the CEO and executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress.