The council of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world’s governing body of soccer, has deferred, for now, taking action on a Palestinian resolution that would penalize Israel for having teams in the West Bank, Haaretz reported Tuesday.
Since 2015, the Palestinians have been pressuring FIFA to take action against Israeli teams based in the West Bank, claiming that these teams operate in violation of FIFA’s charter. The Palestinians are further demanding that if Israel doesn’t comply, then it should be suspended from FIFA.
However, legal scholar, Eugene Kontorovich wrote in September of last year, that the Palestinian effort to penalize Israel and possibly suspend it from the organization, would “contradict longstanding FIFA practice and create a double standard for Israel.”
Rejecting claims that enterprises should not be allowed to operate in occupied territory, Kontorovich argued that “there is simply no support in international law for prohibiting business in occupied territories, as British and French courts have recently affirmed.”
He also pointed out that Morocco, which is a member of FIFA, occupies Western Sahara. This results in “human rights abuses in Western Sahara — where the majority of the population are Moroccan settlers and the indigenous population has been heavily displaced — are too vast to recount.” Yet, Kontrovich observed, that no one “has suggested expelling Morocco on account of its team, based deep in land taken from the Sahrawi.”
Kontorovich also rejected the claim that no FIFA member may play on territory claimed by another member without permission, further observing that “the soccer federation of Gibraltar, a British territory, is a member of FIFA despite being located on territory claimed by Spain. Spain has protested Gibraltar’s inclusion, but FIFA still accepted Gibraltar.”
Furthermore he noted that both North Korea and South Korea are members of FIFA, despite both countries claiming the entire Korean peninsula as their own.
While the council has refused to take up the Palestinian resolution, Haaretz reported it is possible that the FIFA congress, which is meeting Wednesday and Thursday could consider it.
An effort by the Palestinians to have Israel suspended two years ago ended when Palestinian Football Association (PFA), which is headed by former Palestinian security chief, Jibril Rajoub, withdrew its bid to penalize Israel. After that attempt to punish Israel failed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu termed the effort a “unilateral step” that “will only push peace further away instead of bringing it closer.”
Rajoub also serves as the Palestinian Authority’s Head of the Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs.
Pinchas Inbari, a veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent, observed following the 2015 Palestinian effort to expel Israel that “whenever the Palestinians join an international organization, sooner or later they will demand that Israel be expelled from it.”
In FIFA, the Palestinians, and the Future of World Football, which was published in the June 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Aiden Pink made a similar point:
Rajoub’s gambit was another facet of the Palestinian Authority’s escalating efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel in bodies like the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court—politicizing organizations that could theoretically serve a noble purpose if they weren’t so consumed with anti-Israel animus.
Using international organizations to pressure Israel instead of engaging Israel in bilateral negotiations is a tactic that PA President Mahmoud Abbas boasted about. In a 2011, op-ed in The New York Times, Abbas wrote, “Palestine’s admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.”
[Photo: FIFATV / YouTube ]