October 5, 2016
Gianni Infantino, President
Fatma Samoura, General Secretary
Tokyo Sexwale, Chairman, Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine
Dear Mr. Infantino, Ms. Samoura and Mr. Sexwale,
Following our letter of 11 August about the Israeli football teams based in illegal settlements, and Mr. Sexwale’s reply of 18 August, we are writing again because of further developments.
The Israeli Government has now taken over responsibility for Israeli lobbying on the settlement teams issue. We understand that Israeli embassies have been briefed to make two arguments to foreign governments and FIFA Council members. Both are spurious.
Firstly, they say sport should serve as a means of promoting peace and good relations between peoples, and should not be mixed with politics. We agree, however it is the Israeli Football Association that brought politics into sport in this case by accepting into membership clubs based in the illegal settlements against the express wishes of the Palestinian Football Association, in contravention of FIFA’s rules.
Secondly, they say settlement teams should not be an issue since they are all located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli security and civil control. This is a baseless argument. Area C was created under the Oslo Accords to provide full Israeli control of the part of the West Bank where all its settlements were located, as a temporary measure until the Palestinian Authority assumed full control. It does not confer Israeli sovereignty there. Indeed, the international community recognises the Palestinian people’s sovereignty over all of the Occupied Territories, as indicated by the International Court of Justice’s Advisory opinion on the separation wall in 2004, and the United Nations General Assembly vote in 2012 to accept Palestine as a non-member state, based on those territories in total.
Coincidentally, it has become apparent that progress on free movement of Palestinian football players, either between Gaza and the West Bank or out of the Occupied Territories, has been very limited due to repeated arbitrary delay or denial of exit visas by the Israeli Authorities. This is severely hampering development of Palestinian football. One is entitled to ask if the authorities do it to apply pressure on the Palestinian Football Association over the settlement teams issue.
These developments reinforce the arguments we made in our letter of 11 August. The FIFA Council should insist that the Israeli Football Association respects FIFA’s rules. It “should insist that the IFA either remove the settlement football teams from its membership, or have its own membership of FIFA suspended.” This should be done at the Council meeting next week. The issue is well understood, so there is no justification for further delay.
Dror Feiler, Chair, EJJP; member, Judar for Israelisk-Palestinsk Fred (Stockholm)
Arthur Goodman, Diplomatic and Parliamentary Liaison officer, JFJFP (London)
c.c. FIFA Council members, Aleksander Ceferin, Theodore Theodoridis