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New campaign seeks to suspend Israel's FIFA membership

American and Arab sports activists in the United States have launched the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign calling for Israel to be expelled from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) on the grounds of Israel's repeated violations of Palestinian athletes' rights and human rights in general.


The campaigners cite a historic precedent in which FIFA officially suspended the membership of South Africa between 1964-1992 as part of the international pressure that aimed to end the apartheid regime.

Football players Eric Cantona, Frederic Kanoute joined other international stars of the game to declare their rejection of the decision by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to hold the men's under-21 tournament in Israel. Arab-American activist Rahaif Awadallah called for the suspension of Israel's membership in FIFA to pressure Israel to respect Palestinians' human rights and allow Palestinian football players to play at home and abroad. Awadallah said it is now time that initiatives are taken to reinforce the sports boycott of Israel.

He accused the Israeli occupation of restricting football players' mobility inside the West Bank and between the West Bank and Gaza, preventing players from participating in international tournaments and banning the entry of sports equipment that Palestinian teams and stadiums need. He also cited tens of cases in which Palestinian players were arrested, detained or killed.

He noted that there are well-documented cases in which Palestinian players in Israel were insulted by the audience in the stadium with chants including "death to Arabs" but the Israeli federation took no action to end such attacks.

UEFA is considering holding the women's under-19 tournament in Israel in 2015. Israel was also selected as a venue for preliminary matches for Euro 2020. FIFA recently recognised some Israeli violations and created a task force aimed at facilitating the mobility of players and equipment in Palestine.

The Red Card campaign accuses the Israeli authorities of curbing the advancement of Palestinian football and sports through a number of procedures and restrictions that target the following aspects:

1. Sports' infrastructure: Israeli procedures stand against the construction or development of stadiums. Israel sometimes demolishes existent Palestinian stadiums.

2. Restricting mobility: Palestinian players, visiting players, board members and journalists inside and outside the Palestinian territories often have their movements limited or travels banned.

3. Blocking sport shipments: Israel imposes complicated procedures that delay or prevent receiving shipments or donations sent by FIFA or the Asian Football Federation amongst other groups.

4. Political intervention: Overriding organised friendly matches between Palestine and teams of other states.

5. Human rights violations: Continuous violations of players' rights through unexplained arrests and kidnaps.

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