Jerusalem Post Editorial: FIFA folly

Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Fatah’s Central Committee and chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, wants to get Israel suspended from FIFA.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter (photo credit: REUTERS)
FIFA President Sepp Blatter
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Fatah’s Central Committee and chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, wants to get Israel suspended from FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).
He might succeed if the motion he is pushing comes up for a secret vote before the FIFA Congress at the end of the month – not because his claims are so convincing but because of the antagonistic mood against Israel that has taken hold in European states and elsewhere.
For at least two years now in every possible forum, Rajoub has been bandying about a litany of complaints: Israel restricts the movement of Palestinian soccer players; Israel prevents the transfer of soccer equipment from Israeli sea ports to the Palestinian Authority; Israel destroys Palestinian soccer stadiums; Israel prevents Arab teams from countries that have no formal diplomatic relations with the Jewish state – such as Iraq – from entering the West Bank to play against Palestinian teams; Jewish teams representing towns and cities located in Judea and Samaria are incorporated under the aegis of the Israel Football Association.
Last year at the FIFA Congress in Sao Paulo a similar Palestinian initiative was blocked after Rajoub agreed to a compromise in which the chairman of the Cyprus Football Association, Costakis Koutsokoumnis, was named a monitor of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. In the report he presented at the beginning of the year, Koutsokoumnis stated that most of the Palestinian accusations against Israel belong to the realm of politics. FIFA is not, therefore, the proper arbiter.
Israel does restrict the movement of Palestinian soccer players on occasion, particularly those coming from the Gaza Strip. Often these restrictions are due to security concerns that some players are involved in terrorist activities.
Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and includes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on its official political platform.
That Palestinian soccer players living in Gaza are given any access at all to the West Bank and are allowed to travel to games abroad is nothing short of extraordinary.
Palestinian claims that Israel has destroyed Palestinian soccer stadiums seem to be referring to incidents in Gaza in which these stadiums were used to launch rockets at Israel or for other terrorist activities.
Soccer equipment delayed at Israeli ports is also the result of Israel security concerns. Could Israel have done more to expedite release of the equipment without excessive charges to Palestinians? Probably. And perhaps Israel can do more to improve the mobility of Palestinians from Gaza and elsewhere.
But Israel’s heightened security concerns that sometimes lead to the suffering of innocent Palestinians are the result of the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Rajoub is not helping matters any with his extreme comments. Indeed, his ongoing campaign against Israel has more to do with building up political clout in the eyes of Palestinians as a leader of the resistance against Israeli “occupation” than with an honest desire to improve Palestinian soccer.
In recent years, Rajoub has made quite a number of extreme statements. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post last year, he compared Israel to the Nazis, saying Israel’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians are “even worse than any policy in the history of mankind” and that Palestinians live in “concentration camps.” He also refused to condemn murderous terrorist attacks against Jews living in Judea and Samaria.
Rajoub, who is also the chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, has used his position to glorify Palestinian terrorists. In 2013 he sponsored a women’s table tennis contest named after Dalal Mughrabi, who in 1978 helped hijack a bus and kill 37 Israelis, 12 of them children. In 2010 a Palestinian boxing tournament was named after Ali Hassan Salameh, who planned the murder of 11 Israeli team members in the 1972 Munich Olympics. In 2012 he claimed that expressing solidarity with the murdered athletes would constitute “racism.”
Animosity against Israel is so prevalent in Europe that there is a real chance that Rajoub’s measure to get Israel suspended from FIFA might actually be brought before FIFA’s Congress and that the requisite 75 percent will vote in favor.
But even if the measure fails, Rajoub’s initiative is just one of several Palestinian endeavors in international forums such as the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. Apparently, these efforts will not stop until they bring about the creation of a Jew-free Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza that is dedicated to Israel’s destruction.