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FIFA may demand Israel stop settlement games

April 23, 2017 at 2:09 pm

FIFA’s headquarters [REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann]

Football’s top governing body may set Israel a six-month ultimatum to end games in settlements in the occupied West Bank, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Sunday.

FIFA’s monitoring committee on Israel-Palestine suggested the decision will be made at the upcoming FIFA congress in May, warning either Israel as a country or settlement-based teams should be suspended if the games do not stop.

The issue has been pushed in recent years by the Palestinian football association who has demanded Israel be punished for continuing to play games in the settlements, which are illegal under international law.

Image of a protest calling on FIFA to suspend Israel's membership to the football federation in Ramallah, West Bank on 29 May 2015 [file photo]

Image of a protest calling on FIFA to suspend Israel’s membership in Ramallah, West Bank on 29 May 2015 [file photo]

While several options are mentioned in a report prepared by the committee, and obtained by Haaretz, it does mention that making such a demand on Israel would be in line with a decision to expel teams from Crimea participating in the Russian league after it annexed the region from Ukraine.

Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, has rejected a FIFA position on maintaining the status quo, arguing that the presence of Israeli teams in the occupied West Bank contravenes FIFA’s own rules on setting up teams on another country’s territory.

A September 2016 Human Rights Watch report argued that by allowing the games to continue, FIFA contributes to business activity on occupied territory and allows human rights abuses because the settlements are based on land taken from Palestinians and often impact on basic rights like freedom of movement.

Read: More than 100 sports organisations urge FIFA to expel Israeli settlement-based clubs

Palestinians have also complained that Israel often places travel bans on players from the blockaded Gaza Strip, making it difficult for teams from the coastal enclave to play Palestinian competitors in the West Bank.

Last year’s Palestinian cup final was delayed after six players from a Gaza team were refused permission to travel, though the decision was later reversed after a FIFA complaint to the Israeli authorities.

Image of a protest calling on FIFA to suspend Israel’s membership [file photo]