NGOs Involved in the FIFA Campaign Against Israel
The campaign against the Israeli membership in FIFA, as part of BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) measures against Israel is intensifying. Within the Palestinian Authority, the campaign is spearheaded by politician Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestine Football Association.
His official efforts are bolstered by non-governmental campaigns led by political advocacy groups.These NGOs, including the international ones, do not engage in parallel campaigns to expel other countries from international sports bodies (FIFA, IOC) for alleged human rights violations, reflecting a discriminatory double standard against the Jewish state.
NGOs using FIFA to target Israel include:
- Red Card Israeli Racism: (Coalition including Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), Boycott Israel Network [BIN].)
- Activities dating back to 2013.
- Calls to “Suspend the Israeli Football Association from UEFA and FIFA; Highlight Israeli Apartheid and Racism and Expose the hypocrisy of the ‘Brand Israeli Football’.”
- On April 19, 2017, RCIR and other politicized groups such as War on Want, Adalah-NY, American Friends Service Committee, CODEPINK, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Israel Coalition against House Demolitions, sent a letter to FIFA member associations urging them to “Expel Israeli Settlement Clubs.”
- Human Rights Watch (and Kerem Navot):
- On January 5, 2017, HRW, Avaaz, and the European Middle East Project (EuMEP) sent a letter to Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA, and Fatma Samoura, Secretary General of FIFA, writing that “continuing to allow the IFA to hold games in settlements is itself a deeply political act: a decision to endorse football matches on stolen land and to flout FIFA’s human rights responsibilities and the overwhelming consensus of the international community against settlements and against the attempts of the Israeli government to treat parts of the West Bank as if they were part of Israel.”
- In September 2016, Human Rights Watch issued a publication (FIFA Sponsoring Games on Seized Land), joining the Palestinian campaign. Israeli political NGO Kerem Navot contributed to the report.
- HRW’s claims that Israeli teams play on “stolen land,” but acknowledges that only one of them is privately owned. (As noted in a correction buried at the end of the report, the original version mistakenly identified a second field as being on private land.)1 Even in that case, there is disputed Palestinian ownership, which HRW dismisses offhand. Two others are labelled “possibly privately owned land,” but no verifiable evidence is provided to support that assertion. HRW called on “FIFA and UEFA, whose rules govern [Israel Football Association] activities, require the IFA to stop holding games inside the settlements and to stop allowing fields and halls in the settlements to be used for official competitions.”
- It also accused Israel of “abuses” including “the unlawful taking of land and natural resources and their discriminatory allocation, restrictions on freedom of movement and other violations.”
- Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine country director at Human Rights Watch and previously executive director of the political NGO Gisha, said, “By holding games on stolen land, FIFA is tarnishing the beautiful game of football.”
- In January 2017, Bashi wrote an op-ed (“Fifa must take strong stance against Israeli settlement clubs”) stating that “FIFA should heed the UN Security Council’s reaffirmation that the West Bank is not part of Israel, and that settlements are illegal. The only logical conclusion is for FIFA to instruct the Israel Football Association to stop holding matches in West Bank settlements.”
- Kerem Navot
- In October 2016, Kerem Navot published a report entitled, “Own Goal: Israeli football clubs in West Bank settlements.” The report claims to “clarify the status of the land” on which the fields are located.
- Kerem Navot urged “FIFA not to accept football clubs that play on stolen land, and to suspend their participation in the ISraeli football association.”
- Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC):
- In a letter to FIFA’s chair under the heading “Palestinians call on FIFA to take action on Israel” (September 18, 2016): “…there is no option for FIFA other than to suspend the Israeli Football Association to maintain its consistency and credibility…An occupation which is fundamentally racist against Palestinians and which displays all the characteristics of apartheid should not be accommodated by FIFA.”
- According to the BDS Movement website, “The Palestinian BDS National Committee is the broadest Palestinian civil society coalition that works to lead and support the BDS movement.”
- In March 2017, Fadi Quran, senior campaigner at Avaaz, stated, “There is only one non-political, fair solution: no more FIFA games in illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.”
- As part of ongoing campaigns against Israel, Avaaz published an online petition demanding that “the Israeli Football Association either removes the settlement football clubs from its membership or relocates them outside the illegal settlements. If the Israeli Football Association doesn’t comply it must lose its membership with FIFA.”
- “Israel is trying to persuade [FIFA official Tokyo Sexwale] to do nothing. But if enough of us raise our voices and make this a massive call to Sexwale, who has lofty political ambitions, we could push FIFA to hold the Israeli Football Association accountable. But he submits his recommendation this week — we have to make this big, fast — join now.”
- In May 2015, Avaaz published a petition “48 hours for FIFA to ban Israel” aiming “to suspend Israel until it respects fair play and ends discrimination.”
- Avaaz is an online political campaign framework by “Res Publica, a global civic advocacy group, and Moveon.org,” a George Soros-funded organization involved in ideological and political campaigns in the United States.
- European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR):
- ECFR has pushed (pg. 3) for sanctions against Israeli football teams as a part of its “differentiation” approach, hoping to frame BDS as consistent with existing rules and policies of the European Union.
- In June 2016, Hugh Lovatt, the main proponent of ECFR’s “differentiation” calls, along with Martin Konecny from the European Middle East Project, wrote in an opinion article in Al-Jazeera arguing that “Until a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is agreed, FIFA is required to exclude settlement clubs from the Israeli Football Association.”
- In September 2016, Lovatt stated that FIFA should not be “complicit in illegal Israeli settlement activities nor allow Israel to use football as a political tool for entrenching its hold over Palestinian territory…Such a measure sends a message to Israelis that prolonged occupation comes with a cost and will increasingly complicate their ability to pursue a business-as-usual approach with the international community.”
- ECFR donors include: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, European Commission, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), UK, and British Council, as well as private foundations such as Soros’ Open Society Justice Initiative, Robert Bosch Stiftung, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.
- Social TV:
- On May 27, 2015, Social TV posted a video supporting Palestinian efforts to suspend Israel from FIFA. In the article, Social TV also attacked its own donor, the New Israel Fund: “Palestinian efforts to gain Israeli attention – abandoning terrorist attacks and applying international pressure are deserving of esteem. Surprising is the New Israel Fund efforts to sabotage the Palestinian move just moments before their non-violent action reaches nearly every home in Israel. Perhaps the Fund’s executive director’s letter…is intended to close ranks with the Israeli public.”
- Donors include: Cordaid (Netherlands), American Friends Service Committee, Foundation for Middle East Peace (US), British Shalom Salaam Trust (UK), Sigrid Rausing Trust (UK), CCFD (France), EMHRF (EU), and the New Israel Fund. Website lists additional “Supporting Partners”: Anne Frank Foundation (Switzerland), Annenberg Foundation (US), Oxfam Great Britain, and others
- Israel Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD):
- In May 2015, ICAHD represented “Israel activists supporting the suspension of Israel” from FIFA, in a meeting with then FIFA President Sepp Blatter, delivering a “clear message: suspend the IFA from FIFA until the occupation ends and Palestinian football can develop unhindered.”
- Recent financial details are not available on the NGO’s website, on independent nonprofit tracking websites, or on the website of the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits, reflecting a lack of transparency and accountability (accessed September 25, 2016).
- Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
- Released a press release on March 9, 2017, calling for the “dissolution” of the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine as the “committee have bowed to political pressure, refusing to take meaningful action to end the Israeli Football Association’s violation of FIFA statutes. FIFA is breaching its own duty of neutrality and is discriminating against Palestine.”
- This marks at least the third time where HRW has had to issue a correction due to significant factual errors in a publication on Israel. As in the previous cases, rather than prominently highlight the correction at the beginning or the relevant section and update the mistaken text, the correction is placed at the end of the document where it is unlikely to be seen. Moreover, the correction was not highlighted in the media or on social media compounding the impact of its false information which was widely repeated.