Palestine’s Rajoub under fire from media watchdog as Israeli supporters up the ante

Israel vs Palestine flags

By Andrew Warshaw

January 16 – An Israeli-based media watchdog has sent a detailed and highly damning file on Palestine football leader Jibril Rajoub to FIFA in the latest tit-for-tat exchange over the sensitive issue over Israel’s treatment of Palestinian players and officials in the occupied territories.

The aggressively-worded, 21-page dossier, seen by Insideworldfootball, has been drawn up by Palestinian Media Watch, a non-governmental organisation that documents cases of alleged incitement in Palestinian media and claims Rajoub, chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, “promotes hatred, glorifies terror, and incites murder; prohibits the use of sports as a vehicle for peacebuilding; violates the fundamental principles of FIFA” and “is trying to use FIFA to achieve his anti-Israel agenda.”

Rajoub has been leading negotiations with FIFA from the Palestinian side over the issue of six Israel clubs playing – illegally according to human rights organisations and the UN Security Council – in the occupied West Bank.

Last week, despite being on the agenda of the FIFA Council session in Zurich, the item drew hardly any international media coverage with all the focus on FIFA’s decision to expand the World Cup.

Earlier this month, the UN Security Council demanded an end to Israeli settlements in the first such resolution in decades. The move strengthened Rajoub’s case against Israel’s conduct but in a personal assault on the PFA leader, Palestinian Media Watch said he was not fit to lead the negotiations with FIFA mediation officials and should be stripped of the PFA presidency.

“It is unthinkable that a person who glorifies and encourages the murder of civilians should disgrace FIFA by serving as the chairman of a FIFA member association,” the dossier charges. “Permitting Rajoub to participate in activities related to FIFA when he cheers Palestinian terrorists for murdering Israeli civilians brings disgrace on FIFA and its other members.”

The PMW file is dated January 8,  just 24 hours before the Council session that failed to find a solution to the increasingly fractious Middle East footballing crisis. The body’s director, Itamar Marcus, says the documentation was sent to FIFA president Gianni Infantino as well as secretary General Fatma Samoura, Tokyo Sexwale, chairman of the FIFA Monitoring Committee on  Israel-Palestine, and Cornel Borbély, Chairman of the investigatory arm of FIFA’s  Ethics Committee.

PMW calls on FIFA to “demand Mr. Rajoub’s removal from the position of Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association”, disqualify him “from participating in any activities related to FIFA, including all meetings and events organized by FIFA or in which FIFA participates” and demand the appointment of someone who “facilitates peacebuilding through sports and is fit to represent” the Palestinians.

The hard-hitting dossier, whilst clearly designed to serve Israel’s interests in the face of international condemnation, and provide what many will view as vitriolic anti-Palestinian propaganda, underlines the difficulties facing Infantino and Sexwale in trying to separate sport from politics and bring about a lasting solution.

It is backed by an equally strident letter sent to Sexwale by The Lawfare Project, a non-profit international think tank based in New York with a network of 350 legal experts worldwide.

Entitled Violations of FIFA Statutes and Codes by the Palestinian Football Association, the letter accuses the PFA of itself operating a policy of preventing any contact between Palestinian and Israeli footballers “and penalizing any Palestinians who participate in football games with Israelis.”

It provides numerous examples of this including a match in September 2014 involving some 80 Palestinian and Israeli boys between the ages of 6 and 16 as part of a programme organised by the Peres Centre for Peace. Rajoub is accused of responding by stating: “Any activity of normalization in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime against humanity” and demanding that “all individuals and institutions distance themselves from such activities”.

In its submission to Sexwale, the group of lawyers cites a series of FIFA statutes it claims have been breached by the PFA and accuses Rajoub of personally using football “to promote a divisive and hateful political campaign, contrary to the spirit and principles of FIFA and of international sport generally.”

“The Palestinian Football Association’s argument in its complaint against the Israeli Football Association….is contradicted by its own conduct and constitution.”

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