by Itamar Marcus
The FIFA Council announced on Friday that after a number of years of studying the Palestinian Football Association’s (PFA) request to sanction Israel, it has decided to reject the PFA’s complaint.
But that was only half of FIFA’s decision. The other half referred to possible sanctions against the Palestinian Football Association:
“The FIFA Council has decided to refrain from imposing any sanctions or other measures on either the Israel FA or the Palestinian FA, as well as from requesting any other FIFA body to do so. The matter is declared closed…”
[FIFA Council statement, Oct. 27, 2017]
FIFA adding that it was not imposing sanctions on the Palestinian FA is a significant part of the story, and is a direct reference to the complaint initiated and submitted by Palestinian Media Watch.
When PMW learned of the Palestinians’ political complaint against Israel to FIFA, PMW followed by going on the offensive, highlighting the Palestinian violations. PMW wrote a legal complaint and demanded that it is the Palestinians who should be sanctioned. PMW submitted complaints to FIFA in January 2017 and again in March 2017, demanding sanctions against the Palestinian Football Association for glorifying terror, and against its president Jibril Rajoub for glorifying terror, inciting terror, for racism and anti-Semitism.
The second complaint was submitted in anticipation of the FIFA Congress meeting held in May. At the time, it appeared that the Palestinian demand to sanction the Israel FA, if considered alone, would have had a good chance of success.
PMW then called on other organizations and individuals to join us and resubmit PMW’s complaint in their own names. Dozens of organizations worldwide and numerous individuals including many terror victims all resubmitted PMW’s complaint to FIFA. In addition, PMW was pleased to see that many other organizations also used PMW’s documentation about the PFA and Rajoub’s terror glorification and likewise wrote to FIFA.
In the months since submitting the complaint, PMW continued its pressure on FIFA, most recently in August, by highlighting FIFA’s inaction in comparison to its swift treatment of other similar complaints. This was followed by the op-ed written by the Head of PMW’s Legal Department that was published just days ago.
The detailed nature of PMW’s complaint and its scope made it impossible for FIFA to accept the Palestinian complaint while ignoring PMW’s complaint. FIFA was faced with two complaints that it realized had to be dealt with simultaneously.
FIFA’s decision to reject the PFA’s demands is a great victory for Israel as the imposition of sanctions, or even the threat to do so, would have caused irreparable damage to Israeli sport, and PMW is very pleased to have played an important role.
PMW also cooperated with The Lawfare Project (in the US), UK Lawyers for Israel, and the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, and made detailed submissions in defense of the Israel FA, that showed that the Palestinian claims were baseless and political in nature.
These efforts were also recognized by FIFA’s Council when it noted that its decision had been taken “after a thorough legal consultation process” and “that the current situation is, for reasons that have nothing to do with football, characterised by an exceptional complexity and sensitivity and by certain de facto circumstances that can neither be ignored nor changed unilaterally by non-governmental organisations such as FIFA.” [FIFA Council statement, Oct. 27, 2017]
In 2015, PMW had a similar success when Palestinian supporters submitted several anti-Israel and pro-BDS resolutions, including an attempt to have the Association of Secondary School Teachers in Israel expelled from Education International, the international umbrella organization of teachers’ unions. PMW wrote a detailed report
on PA education and presented it at the conference in Ottawa and counter resolutions against the Palestinian teachers’ unions were submitted by the Israeli teachers’ unions. On the last day of the conference, the organizers decided to withdraw both resolutions.
PMW will continue to go on the offensive against BDS using similar tactics whenever similar actions are initiated.