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The New Arab

FIFA bins report criticising Israeli occupation

A FIFA investigation into Israeli settler teams has been ongoing for two years [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 May, 2017

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Critics have called ongoing delays in the release of the report critical of Israel's occupation 'disgraceful' arguing that the world football governing body is giving in to external pressures.

World football governing body FIFA has removed the issue of illegal settlement teams playing in Israel's national league from a congress set to get underway in Bahrain on Thursday, despite pleas from the Palestinian Football Association and more than 170 Palestinian teams.

The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has called for Israel to be banned from FIFA citing the issue of settlement teams, in addition to perceived systematic violence against Palestinian athletes, and the destruction of Palestinian sporting facilities by the Israeli state.

The PFA has gained international support for its campaign from more than 100 sport associations, trade unions, human rights groups, and public figures.

However, on Tuesday FIFA announced that no vote on suspending Israel's membership would take place when national delegates meet for the Manama congress.

"Following the report by chairman of the Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, Tokyo Sexwale, the FIFA Council considered that at this stage it is premature for the FIFA congress to take any decision," FIFA said in a statement.

A FIFA review into the issue of Israeli settlement teams has been repeatedly delayed, and was meant to have been published in October 2016. FIFA officials have been looking into the issue for two years.

Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have accused FIFA of benefiting from grave human rights and international humanitarian law violations by permitting the Israel Football Association to conduct matches on occupied Palestinian land.

According to the Electronic Intifada news website these delays have, in part, been caused by pressure placed on FIFA by the Israeli government.

The pro-Palestinian outlet cites a 24-page memo written by the Israel Football Association to FIFA attacking a draft report written by the Sexwale commission.

It describes the draft report as "politicised and fundamentally flawed", "rife with false assertions, with no legal or factual basis", concluding that the document constitutes an adoption of the Palestinian narrative".

In one particular incidence the letter appears to deny the existence of an occupation.

"This territory is best understood as territory over which both the Israeli and Palestinian side [sic] maintain competing claims," it states.

Such a statement contradicts UN precedents. The organisation's Security Council notably adopted a resolution in December reaffirming that Israel is the "occupying power" in the West Bank.

Officially FIFA legislation bars national associations from holding matches on the territory of another member without prior permission, as occurs regularly in territories occupied by Israel.

FIFA's decision to delay the Sexwale commission has been condemned by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC).

"For two years, FIFA has ducked its responsibilities and allowed the Israel Football Association to violate FIFA's own statutes by including football teams based in illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land," BNC coordinator Hind Awwad said in a statement.

"After bowing time and again to Israeli intimidation, FIFA had a chance to correct its disgraceful record. But it seems FIFA President Gianni Infantino is bent on following his predecessor's corrupt path."

Awwad further called on FIFA delegates "to stand on the right side of history" over the issue. 

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