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FIFA criticised over football matches in illegal Israeli settlements

Human Rights Watch has criticised FIFA's sponsorship of football matches in Israeli settlements [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 26 September, 2016

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Human Rights Watch says the football association should tell the Israeli clubs 'to practice, pass, play all you want - but only inside Israel'.
FIFA is "tarnishing the beautiful game of football" by sponsoring matches in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Human Rights Watch has criticised the worldwide football association for sanctioning football matches on land unlawfully seized from Palestinians.

"By holding games on stolen land, FIFA is tarnishing the beautiful game of football," said Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine country director at HRW.

"To fulfill its human rights responsibilities, FIFA should require its affiliate, the Israel Football Association, which is conducting business in unlawful settlements that are off-limits to Palestinians, to move all FIFA-sanctioned games and activities inside Israel," a statement added.

There are six Israeli teams situated within the occupied West Bank on land whose settlement is considered illegal by the UN and most of the international community, including the US.

HRW had investigated the football clubs that play in the IFA but hold their official matches outside Israel.

By allowing the IFA to hold matches inside settlements, FIFA is engaging in business activity that supports those Israeli settlements, HRW said.

The organisation reviewed financial documents which it claims show activities such as part-time employment and recreational services offered by the clubs to settlers make the settlements more sustainable, "thus propping up a system that exists through serious human rights violations", it said.
Read more: Foul play: Will Israel be given the red card?

Exacerbating the dispute is Israel blocking the West Bank's 2.5 million Palestinian residents, not counting East Jerusalem residents, from entering Israeli-only neighbourhoods, except for approximately 26,000 labourers with special permits to enter and exit at prescribed times under security supervision.

"Whatever political decisions may or may not be made about the settlements in the future, they represent and contribute to serious human rights violations right now," Bashi said.

"This problem has one solution: FIFA should tell the IFA clubs to practice, pass, play all you want - but only inside Israel."

Last year, FIFA established a monitoring committee to resolve the issue, and the committee said it would submit its recommendations to a FIFA Council meeting in Zurich on October 13.

Israeli settlements

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