By Andrew Warshaw
February 13 – Concern is intensifying amongst campaign groups and human rights organisations over FIFA’s failure to resolve the ongoing dispute over Israeli lower-league clubs playing official games on settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Following last month’s FIFA Council meeting, Gianni Infantino disclosed that “within one month” he expected a final report to be presented by FIFA’s chief Middle East mediator Tokyo Sexwale who would meet first with representatives from both sides.
But a month on, there is no indication that Sexwale has met that deadline.
“A month has passed, there is no word from FIFA, and Sexwale’s monitoring committee is only scheduled to convene in late March,” said Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine Advocacy Director Sari Bashi in an emailed statement. “This is all very puzzling, considering that the committee’s mandate expires at the May FIFA Congress.”
Meanwhile the pro-Palestinian body red Card Israeli Racism questioned Infantino’s commitment to the cause.
“Red Card Israeli Racism (RCIR) understands that, far from producing his report in time for today’s deadline, Mr Sexwale has not yet met with the two associations’ representatives and is unlikely to do so before late March,” said a statement.
“This latest setback follows a series of frustrating delays and no-shows that have surrounded FIFA’s efforts to resolve the issue of the settlement clubs:
RCIR Coordinator Geoff Lee added: “This shabby record is totally unacceptable and indicates a lack of engagement by FIFA’s new leadership. The Palestinian Football Association has bent over backwards to cooperate with FIFA’s negotiating process and deserves better treatment.”
RCIR has now issued a letter of complaint to Infantino.
“The two sides to this dispute will not agree,” said Lee, “but this is an issue which calls for a swift resolution in accordance with international human rights law.”
“Infantino told FIFA Congress his engagement was there on this issue but we have seen no evidence to bear this out. It’s high time he showed some genuine leadership and stopped kicking Palestine into the long grass.”
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