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Palestinians turn to FIFA over Israeli restrictions

For the second time in a week, Israeli authorities place travel restrictions on players meant to participate in Palestine Cup matches. A motion to expel Israel from FIFA last year was withdrawn after Palestinians received assurances on freedom of movement.

By Yoni Mendel

Hebron’s Ahly al-Khalil plays Gaza-based Shejaiya in the 2015 Palestine Cup, held in Hebron, West Bank, August 14, 2015. Hebron won the title. (Flash90)

Hebron’s Ahly al-Khalil plays Gaza-based Shejaiya in the 2015 Palestine Cup, held in Hebron, West Bank, August 14, 2015. Hebron won the title. (Flash90)

The Palestinian Football Association said it will escalate its complaint with FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, over Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian soccer players to travel between the West Bank and Gaza for games in the Palestine Cup over the past week, Palestinian news site Sawa reported Saturday.

The complaint comes as the Israeli military has refused to allow seven players from Gaza-based Shabab Khan Younis to exit the Gaza Strip in order to play a Palestine Cup match in the West Bank in Hebron on Saturday.

Appeals to Israeli officials to resolve the matter were reportedly unsuccessful. Palestinian Football Association officials delayed Saturday’s game by 48 hours in hopes that with the intervention of FIFA, Israel might allow the Palestinian players to exit Gaza in order to play in the cup match.

The Palestinian Football Association withdrew a motion to expel Israel from FIFA last year as part of a compromise that was meant to establish a committee to ensure freedom of movement for Palestinian soccer players.

Palestinian authorities said they are also planning an international campaign to raise awareness of Israeli restrictions, according to the report in Sawa.

In a nearly identical incident earlier this week, Israel prevented seven Palestinian players from Hebron-based Ahly al-Khalil from entering the Gaza Strip to play Shabab Khan Younis, citing the fact that they hold Israeli ID cards. Israeli military authorities also delayed the rest of Ahly al-Khalil for 12 hours at the Erez Border crossing, the only active border crossing in and out of the Gaza Strip.

Despite having only 11 players available due to Israeli restrictions, Ahly al-Khalil won that match.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, told Haaretz that it decided to not let the Palestinian players leave the Gaza Strip “due to damaging security information and in light of the security situation.”

The Israeli army controls the only regularly operating border crossing in and out of the Gaza Strip, in addition to claiming complete control over its airspace, maritime zones, population registry, and all decisions regarding who and what may enter and exit the besiegedturn territory.

The Palestinians and the entire international community consider the West Bank and Gaza Strip to be parts of the same territory despite not actually being territorially contiguous. Every peace plan tabled in recent decades has included some mechanism to ensure free Palestinian movement between the two territories.

Yoni Mendel is the projects manager of the Mediterranean Unit at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, and co-editor of the book review section of the Journal of Levantine Studies (JLS). A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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    1. Ben

      Israel furthers its burgeoning reputation as a petty, vindictive, racist power that arbitrarily lords it over other human beings and treats them with contempt. An occupier that says one thing and does another. An occupier that bewails the supposed lack of a partner yet does everything it possibly can to sabotage the development of a partner. An occupier that says it wants “security” but does perverse little things like this that actually undermine its security.

      Underlying the surface impression of pettiness, however, is of course the real aim: never accord the Palestinians any shred of humanity, any shred of the rights and status that go with peoplehood or nationhood. It just won’t do, will it, to have Palestinians representing themselves as a nation of sorts, with any kind of national team, in any international arena? People might start asking questions. And then what would we do? Better to make sure we leave them as invisible as possible.

      Or, to be more precise: “Palestinian soccer players” don’t exist. They are unmentionables. A non sequitur. But “Palestinian terrorists”? Let us loudly proclaim those two words in every sentence we utter. (Jerusalem Post writers seem to be having a contest among themselves to see how many times in each headline and each paragraph they can squeeze in the word “terrorist, ” as noun, adjective or adverb.) We’ve already been treated to “diplomatic terror.” “Soccer terror” can not be far behind. “Those dangerous guys in terror shorts kicking those terrifying soccer terror balls.”

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    2. Jimmy redman

      Will FIFA do the thing and expell Israel? No way. They are not courageous enough to stand up to an apartheid state. Imagine the aproar if the boot was on the other foot.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Carmen

      “Despite having only 11 players available due to Israeli restrictions, Ahly al-Khalil won that match.”

      Once again, israel displays for all that it’s nothing more than a playground bully, and will of course, as the fate of all bullies, be beaten.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Average American

      Mr. Redman – I struggle to answer the question why. Why are people bowing and scraping to The Jewish State, and The Jewish Nation globally, All Jews Anywhere? What power to hurt us do we imagine they have? If they keep people at bay by threatening to do something harmful to us, so harmful we fear it, then they are a danger to us not our closest friend. We know from their Talmud that they consider us gullible servants unfit to touch their wine glass, but those are just words. What tangible thing could they do to us? I want to know what people are afraid of, what governments kneel to.

      Reply to Comment