Senior Palestinian official Jibril Rajoub. (AP/Nasser Shiyoukhi) AP/Nasser Shiyoukhi
Jibril Rajoub

It’s time to ban the PA from international soccer competition, just like Iran was banned from international judo.

By Palestinian Media Watch

On October 22, the International Judo Federation showed its clear moral fiber by suspending the Iran Judo Federation “from all competitions, administrative and social activities organized or authorized by the IJF and its Unions, until the Iran Judo Federation gives strong guarantees and prove that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes.”

The suspension followed Iran’s forcing its athlete to withdraw from the Judo World Championships last August, rather than compete against an Israeli.

For years, the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) under Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestinian Football Association and Head of the PLO Supreme Council for Youth and Sports, has prohibited Palestinian participation in any sporting event with Israel. Rajoub has also used Palestinian football to support and glorify terrorism, incite hatred and violence, and promote racism.

While Palestinian Media Watch has provided FIFA – the international football (soccer) association – with all the proof necessary to penalize the PFA and to suspend its membership in FIFA, as well as to take disciplinary measures against Rajoub, to FIFA’s great shame, it sadly lacks the moral clarity that was shown by the International Judo Federation, and only temporarily suspended Rajoub himself, without even penalizing the PFA.

In the terminology of the Palestinian Authority, participating in any joint activities with Israelis, including sporting events, is called “normalization.” It is strictly forbidden, including when it comes to football.

Just a week before the suspension of the Iranian federation from all Judo competitions, Rajoub confirmed his support for the decision of the Council of Arab Ministers for Youth and Sports prohibiting Palestinians and all Arabs from participating with Israelis in sports.

Rajoub explained the broad scope of the prohibited “normalization” at a dinner hosted by the PA presidential institution in honor of the visiting Saudi Arabian national football team. Attendees included the PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, government ministers, members of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee, commanders of the PA Security Forces, and leaders of the private sector.

Rajoub posted the following to Facebook in October: “We have defined what [our ban on] normalization with the occupation entails: A. No Arab will participate in any sports activity in Israel, in other words, one that Israel hosts. B. We reject that any Arab or Islamic state host any championship with the participation of Israelis. C. Any athlete who advances a stage and an Israeli is competing against him will not meet him.”

Will FIFA Take a Stand Against Bigotry?

Now that Rajoub has once again reiterated the rejection by the Palestinian sports leadership and the PFA of the most fundamental statutes of FIFA and all international sports organizations, will FIFA and other international sports institutions show moral fiber and implement their own rules by suspending the PFA and other Palestinian sports organizations that adopt the PA’s boycott of Israel?

Rajoub’s opposition to FIFA rules, which prohibit involving politics in sports or boycotting any country’s athletes, is not new. Rajoub has prohibited “normalization” with Israel in football since he was put in charge of Palestinian sports and youth affairs.

For example, following a friendly football match between Israeli and Palestinian children, organized by the Peres Center for Peace and held in the aftermath of the 2014 Gaza war, Rajoub stated clearly that in his opinion normalization in sports with Israel – which he calls the “Zionist enemy” – is no less than “a crime against humanity.”

Rajoub declared,”I demand that all individuals and institutions distance themselves from such activities, especially because their recurrence would arouse disgust and aversion towards all members of the [Palestinian] sports community,” the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported in 2014.

Rajoub’s sentiments regarding a friendly game between children were shared by others. Just days before, a member of the Palestinian Olympic Committee had said that the event was “a crime,” “immoral,” and “unpatriotic,” and called on Rajoub to interrogate and prosecute the organizers for “serious treason,” reported the independent Palestinian news agency Sama.

Rajoub reiterated his position on “normalization” in February 2019, indicating that he may have been responsible for initiating the decision of the Council of Arab Ministers for Youth and Sports to boycott Israel and Israeli athletes.

“Once again, we hope that the Arab Summit will emphasize that normalization and ties with Israel – as long as Palestine is occupied – are taboo,” declared Rajoub on Facebook. “We do not want to see Israelis in the Arab capitals – not for purposes of sports, not for purposes of economy, not for purposes of cooperation, and so on. As long as the Palestinian state has not been established, this must remain taboo.”

Terrorism, Hatred and Violence

The anti-Israel crusader’s prohibition of “normalization” in football is just the tip of the iceberg. In April 2017, PMW filed a comprehensive complaint to FIFA against Rajoub and the Palestinian Football Federation. In the complaint, PMW provided evidence of their support and glorification of terrorism; incitement of hatred and violence; promotion of racism; and prohibiting the use of football as a bridge for peace.

After an unexplained delay, FIFA’s disciplinary Committee wrote to Rajoub demanding that he respond to PMW’s allegations. In the letter to Rajoub, FIFA made clear the severity of PMW’s allegations against him: “FIFA Ethics Committee has opened these investigation proceedings after having determined that, on the basis of a document and relevant evidence submitted by Palestinian Media Watch… there is a prima facie case that you may have committed violations of the FIFA Code of Ethics.”

Following a different complaint, Rajoub was penalized with a 12-month match suspension and was forced to pay a fine of approximately $20,000 for breaching article 53 (inciting hatred and violence) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code. The PA and Rajoub blamed PMW for FIFA’s decision, saying: “[Palestinian Media Watch is] waging war on all fronts.”

Considering that Rajoub has now reiterated the PFA policy prohibiting and boycotting sports with Israelis, PMW once again calls on FIFA to stop ignoring the continued blatant breach of its rules and regulations by Rajoub and the Palestinian Football Association and to adopt the steps taken by the International Judo Federation against Iran, and suspend the PFA from FIFA and discipline Rajoub to the full extent of FIFA’s rules.

Anything short of quick and decisive action by FIFA will be interpreted as acceptance of the boycott policy recently reiterated by Rajoub and the Arab Ministers for Youth and Sports. This will have a detrimental long-term impact on international sport and will further damage FIFA’s reputation.