James Dostoyevsky: It’s enough, Infantino.

How many more children need to be slaughtered until your defunct admin takes action?

At the post-Congress media conference in Paris last week Wednesday, UEFA were asked why the European body was not applying the same sanctions to Israel as it does to Russia, which has been barred from international football since the invasion of Ukraine. Although well-meaning, it was the right question put to the wrong body. Russia was suspended by FIFA, world football’s governing body. And as a Member of FIFA, the European body automatically complied. Had to.

Article 3 of the FIFA Statutes, under the heading “Human rights” states:

FIFA is committed to respecting all internationally recognised human rights and shall strive to promote the protection of these rights”

You could have fooled me.

Article 4, paragraph 1 of the Statutes, explains further, and under the heading “Non-discrimination, equality and neutrality”, it reads (my highlights):

Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin colour, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.

Really FIFA? Where is the suspension then? You know, the one that your Statutes demand and justify?

The ruling of the International Court of Justice, a few weeks ago, spoke exactly of “acts against a group of people” that could be construed as genocidal acts. It is abundantly clear to any sane person – clearly the US/UK/EU leadership are not part of that group of sanity but their populations are – that Israel is in flagrant breach of an entire raft of FIFA Membership obligations.

So where is the quick suspension that Russia got when it invaded Ukraine?

In his response, the UEFA general secretary suggested that Israel was an entirely different case, the country having initially responded to the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks. He said, quote: “There was no such discussion or such intention from the UEFA administration”. Fair enough, although this writer thinks that the esteemed GS is mistaken. There were such discussions, there are such discussions, and there are many. But it wasn’t UEFA’s call. It is FIFA’s. He continued: “There are two completely different situations between the two countries. Don’t forget the start of the war in Russia and Ukraine and the start of what is happening now – which is regrettable, of course – in the Middle East.” OK, then.

Karim Khan: Independent or bought?

He seemed rattled and certainly didn’t expect the question. What he should have said is that only the FIFA Council can suspend a Member Association. In urgent cases, the Bureau of the FIFA Council – which is composed of 7 Members, namely the FIFA President and the Presidents of the six Confederations – can issue a suspension. If a suspension is issued by the Bureau of the Council, it must subsequently be approved by the full Council of 37 Members, and if upheld, submitted to a vote by the FIFA Congress at the next Congress:

Article 16, Paragraph 1. of the FIFA Statutes, says:

The Congress may suspend a member association solely at the request of the Council. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Council may, without a vote of the Congress, temporarily suspend with immediate effect a member association that seriously violates its obligations.

It is my view that Netanyahu’s Israel does.

So much for the Statutes and who can do what.

Theodoridis can’t, and he was the wrong recipient of the question (his President can always table such a motion as a Member of the Bureau and Council but he needs allies to follow suit and share his concern).

The CEO’s response came hot on the heels of demands by a group of Middle East football associations for Israel to be suspended, led by Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, the half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah IIand the president of the Jordanian FA and the 12-nation West Asian Football Federation (which comprises Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE, Yemen and Iran).

Infantino would not be FIFA’s President today without Prince Ali’s votes in 2016 that shifted to Infantino in the second round of the extraordinary Congress in Zurich (and the handful of votes Champagne got). But who is surprised? Decent people find it easy to give and difficult to take. Not Infantino: he loves to take and give nothing in return.

Prince Ali fell for the bald Mephistopheles but got nothing in return. Now he rightfully expects return-action, now it matters because people, above all children, are being slaughtered every single day – while Infantino sits in his various gifted jets and flies around the globe, sitting on “Cloud Nein” (he does speak a little German).

FIFA’s, the world governing body’s, position is unacceptable to those who observe what is going on. And who doesn’t. Well, other than Infantino.

The invasion of Ukraine started two years ago and, while it created and still creates lots of damage – far too many lives were lost, infrastructure destroyed – that war did not, nor does focus on slaughtering civilians, above all children.

That horrible war produced hundreds of thousands of victims: soldiers above all, on both sides. Nevertheless, FIFA acted swiftly and suspended Russia, while that suspiciously unmoved Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (not to be confused with the Intl Court of Justice, which did act thanks to South Africa’s initiative), Karim A. A. Khan KC, the London Barrister who issued the arrest warrant for President Putin based on – what again?

That same guy, overweight and overpaid, raced to the conflict zone very quickly. Well, kind of: he forgot to visit Gaza, where massacres have become the norm. All he did is suck up to Netanyahu’s government, quickly shake hands with Abbas – and fly back home. Nothing to see here, he was told, I assume. The man is under pressure, as he should be. So he issued a lamentable tweet on X, trying to claim that he was working. Working for whom seems obvious. Some say that he is biased, if not bought. Clearly that would be an unsavoury allegation, wouldn’t it.

In contrast to Russia’s invasion, Israel’s devastating invasion of a territory that it already occupied and has always controlled, that small stretch of coastal land, which is unable to survive on its own because it is stifled in every which way and has always depended on crucial supplies like water, power and food, controlled by the occupiers (who famously turned off both  a war crime –  and whose insane settler gangs continue to block the passage of trucks that are supposed to deliver food and medicine – another war crime), that cut-off piece of land without ports, airports or autonomous international borders of its own, is indeed a “completely different”situation:

  • Gaza is an open-air prison camp inhabited by more than 2 million civilians, without the ability to defend itself (other than through the Hamas Military Wing), and without any logistic support by “allies” (see WAFF above). Palestine’s natural “allies” are mostly silent. The regional support is reserved to a large army full of foreign mercenaries armed to their teeth (by the US above all, although the UK, facilitator of what is the State of Israel since 1948, plays a remarkably repugnant role, as does Germany and the EU).
  • Prince Ali, Excellency: what is your half-brother’s position? Those trucks that are loaded in UAE ports and deliver goods to Israel via Saudi and your own land, how does that comply with your and WAFF’s sudden interest for a cease-fire and your initiative to suspend Israel? A timid question, no more…

The situation in Gaza is indeed “completely different”, isn’t it.

In Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of soldiers lost their life to some perverted insanity.

But only a comparatively small number of civilians – not to mention children – have become victims of deadly aggression and “dumb bombs”.

How “completely different” the situation in Gaza really is, can be illustrated by these figures released by what is left of the Gaza Health Ministry (quoted by Haaretz, and accepted by the UN, among others):

  • 2 million Gazans have been displaced in the Gaza Strip since last October. During the 128 days of the horrific blood-bath in Gaza, the number of dead and missing has climbed to 35,176.
  • The number of massacred children has now reached 12’300 – mounting rapidly with every insane missile attack on civilians who find themselves squeezed into an area of Heathrow airport, 1.5 million of them.
  • The US-supplied bombs and weapons destroy refugee camps and the “tent cities” that house over a million refugees from the North of Gaza (they were instructed to flee South to escape the bombing of their homes).
  • 8,400 women have been murdered and the missiles tore 340 medical workers to shreds.
  • In this disgusting war 124 journalists were killed – more than in any other war ever.

But the daily massacres are only one thing.

The “completely different” situation faced by millions in Gaza affects tens of thousands of civilians for whom no help is available any longer:

  • 11,000 civilians need critical treatment,
  • 10,000 cancer patients are at risk of death,
  • 70,’000 Gazans suffer from infectious diseases,
  • the cases of viral hepatitis have surpassed 8,000,
  • and over 60,000 pregnant women are now at risk.
  • More than 350,000 chronic patients cannot be helped or treated because
  • 30 hospitals have been bombed to pieces,
  • 53 health centers are destroyed and
  • 150 are partially destroyed.
  • 123 ambulances were blown up by Israel’s US bombs and mortars – and the madness continues.

But Israel does not stop there:

  • 70,000 residential units are completely, and further
  • 290,000 are partially destroyed.
  • 100 schools and universities have been flattened, and
  • 184 mosques and three churches have been blown up.

These too, are atrocious war crimes but it doesn’t end there:

  • 200 heritage sites were bombed to bits when the insane amount of
  • 66,000 tons of American made bombs flattened large parts of Gaza.

And FIFA? FIFA condones it all because FIFA does nothing.

Indeed a “completely different” situation though, is it: a country that never had any freedom, not to mention the freedom of movement or the freedom of expression is being annihilated before our eyes: ever since this insane revenge on Palestinians began,

  • 99 health workers and 10 journalists were arrested and dragged into Israel.
  • The 142 Government offices that were erased from the face of Gaza are but a further addendum to the genocide.

Meanwhile, FIFA does what it does best: the FIFA President jets from the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar to AFCON 24 in the Ivory Coast – and says nothing.

The very man who took residence in Qatar (while his office is still in Zurich, we believe), and who has now apparently moved to Miami to help organise the next World Cup, which, without his physical presence could not be organized, one assumes) is deaf and blind to the Gazans who keep dying by the ten thousands.

If the war in Gaza is “completely different” to the war in Ukraine, then the facts and figures and the horrorand the International Court of Justice would probably beg to disagree. As would any thinking person who cannot see how the attack of October 7 can be proportional to the mass slaughter of Gazan civilians.

So, FIFA, do what you are supposed to do as the sentinel of the game that you claim to be loving so much.

Act to protect not only footballers but, quite simply, human beings.

Listen to Prince Ali and listen to WAFF that he presides over: Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar (you have a house there), Saudi Arabia, Syria, UAE, Yemen and Iran – they can’t all be wrong.

You are.

James Dostoyevsky was a Washington-based author until the end of 2018, where he reported on sports politics and socio-cultural topics. He returned to Europe in 2019 and continues to follow football politics – presently with an emphasis on the Middle East, Europe and Africa.