By Paul Nicholson
November 28 – In an open letter to FIFA and its member associations, the Palestine Football Association (PFA) has asked for FIFA’s “assistance” in seeking to uphold and safeguard human rights in the Gaza strip.
“The current predicament confronting the Palestinian people represents an existential threat tantamount to genocide as documented by UN experts and international scholars,” says the PFA letter.
Reminding FIFA of the third article of its statutes, and the pledge to respect and promote the protections of all internationally recognised human rights and to strive to promote the protection of these rights, the PFA said they “earnestly request your assistance by urging you to:
- Condemn the attacks on hospitals, schools, places of worship, and sportsfacilities in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip.
- Call for an immediate cessation of hostilities in harmony with the UNGAresolution of October
- Urge the concerned governments to end the complete blockade on Gaza, establish permanent humanitarian corridors for the delivery of essentialsupplies such as food, water, medical resources, and fuel throughout Gaza, ensuring the operation of crucial infrastructure and enabling humanitarian relief agencies to sustain their life-saving
- Call on the international community to bear its responsibilities, according to the resolutions, towards ending Israel’s military occupation and system of racial segregation and domination that is described by leading human rights organizations and UN experts as “apartheid” against Palestinians.”
Highlighting the role football played in ending apartheid in South Africa and again the action football took collectively when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, the PFA said: “While football may be perceived as a mere game by some, we understand its significance extends far beyond that. Football has the power to effect change… If we unite with a shared commitment and a genuine desire for positive change, football has the potential to make a meaningful impact in Palestine as well, contributing to the betterment of ourselves and the world we inhabit.”
Following the attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7 that killed 1,200 Israelis and saw a further 240 taken hostage, the Israeli military response has killed more than 14,800 people in airstrikes and ground offensives in Gaza. 70% of the deaths have been women, children and the elderly, the vast majority of them civilians – 6,150 of these casualties were children and 4,000 women.
Israeli bombing has left an estimated two-thirds of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million population homeless. The PFA said it mourns the loss of at least 85 sportspeople, 55 of them registered players and officials.
While the focus of the war on Hamas has been the Gaza Strip, the PFA said that 229 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and armed settlers, including 52 children in the West Bank. More than 2,750 have sustained injuries.
“Israel has actively pursued a plan to extensively arm Jewish- Israeli settlers and“civilian” militias within the occupied Palestinian territory, encouraging land grabs with the support of Israeli occupying forces,” said the PFA.
“These extreme difficulties, combined with the closure of Israeli occupation checkpoints, recurring military incursions, summary executions, lack of safety, restrictions onmovement, besiegement of hospitals, and destruction of civilian infrastructure -including sportfacilities- have forced us to suspend all local football activity until further notice.”
In 2014, at the FIFA Congress, Palestine were persuaded to withdraw a motion for the expulsion of Israel from FIFA due to Israel’s continued disruption of Palestinian football. It was a motion that could very well have been passed if it had gone to a vote.
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