Israel & Occupied Palestinian Territories: Concerns about FIFA's position on holding games in Israeli settlements in the West Bank

In October 2017, FIFA decided not to take any action against six Israeli football clubs based in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Human Rights Watch has responded saying: “FIFA has decided to continue sponsoring games in illegal Israeli settlements, in contempt of international law and contrary to its professed commitment to human rights." The Palestinians and other stakeholders argue that the settlement clubs violate FIFA's own rules that prohibit a member association from holding competitions on another member's territory without their permission. They suggest that by allowing the Israel Football Association (IFA) to hold matches inside settlements, FIFA is engaging in business activity that supports Israeli settlements, contrary to its human rights commitments. The IFA has claimed that its purpose is to benefit football and that it seeks to uphold the principle of separation between sports and politics. In 2015, FIFA created a monitoring committee responsible for addressing a number of Palestinian complaints, including over Israeli football teams based in settlements.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has collated a series of materials below, including FIFA's statement and responses of rights groups.

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Article
28 November 2017

FIFA will not take action on Israeli settlement teams

Author: Aljazeera

International football's governing body has announced that it will not take a position on the future of six Israeli football clubs based in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. FIFA...cited the "exceptional complexity and sensitivity" and "political" nature of the subject...The Palestine Football Association (PFA) had been campaigning FIFA to force the relocation of the clubs since 2015. The clubs are located in settlements considered illegal under international law, which is in breach of FIFA statutes. PFA President Jibril Rajoub previously said that he was not seeking the expulsion of Israel from FIFA, but rather for Israel to abide by international regulations. Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch, said: "There should be nothing political about deciding to follow one's own rules. "With today's decision, FIFA has decided to continue sponsoring games in illegal Israeli settlements, in contempt of international law and contrary to its professed commitment to human rights." In a statement, Fadi Quran, a senior campaigner in Palestine for the civic organisation, Avaaz, said that FIFA's failure to act means that thousands of Palestinian children are being "robbed of the chance to play the game they love on land that's theirs"...

 

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Article
27 October 2017

FIFA Council statement on the final report by the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine

Author: FIFA

...The FIFA Council takes note of the documents adopted by international governmental bodies concerning the relationship between Israel and Palestine – such as United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which comprises recommendations without sanctions – but has decided that it should not take any position on their contents. The FIFA Council acknowledges 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. Given that the final status of the West Bank territories is the concern of the competent international public law authorities, the FIFA Council agrees that FIFA, in line with the general principle established in its Statutes, must remain neutral with regard to political matters...With that said, the FIFA administration will continue to facilitate the movement of players, officials and football equipment in, out of, and within Palestine — the aspect on which the FIFA Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine has covered the most ground and achieved a positive response.

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Report
5 June 2017

HRW says FIFA’s delay of decision on Israeli settlement clubs is a violation of its human rights commitments

Author: Human Rights Watch

FIFA: Delay of Israeli Settlement Club Decision Sets Back Reform, 11 May 2017

FIFA President Gianni Infantino today [11 May 2017] won yet another delay on deciding whether to allow the Israel Football Association to continue holding games in unlawful Israeli settlements in the West Bank, keeping FIFA in direct violation of its own statutes and commitment to respect human rights … Infantino told the Congress that he received [a final internal report on the matter] only yesterday. Following the vote, he told a press conference that Council members did not receive a written report…and did not have a chance to study it. 

Human Rights Watch, Avaaz, and EuMEP have called for FIFA to bar its affiliate, the Israeli Football Association (IFA), from organizing football activities in West Bank settlements, because those settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, and contribute to serious human rights abuses … In April 2016, Professor John Ruggie authored a report for FIFA on how the body needs to entrench human rights across the federation’s operations. Ruggie’s recommendations for FIFA are based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the global standard on business and human rights.

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Article
5 June 2017

Israel & Occupied Palestinian Territories: FIFA delays decision on Israeli football clubs in settlements amid concerns about violation of FIFA bylaws

Author: Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post (Israel)

In Israeli win, FIFA balks at ousting settler soccer clubs, 11 May 2017

The Palestinians lost their bid to oust six West Bank settlement teams, as the 67th FIFA Congress in Bahrain voted 138-50 on Thursday to postpone the issue for another year… [Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association] Jibril Rajoub, said the vote to delay the issue was illegal and that he plans to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, headquartered in Switzerland … [Israel Football Association Head Ofer Eini said] “There should be soccer games everywhere,” … He charged Rajoub with politicizing FIFA by asking it to determine the geographical boundaries of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. [Rajoub] explained that the presence of six IFA soccer clubs in the West Bank violates FIFA bylaws that prevent the teams from one national football association from playing on the territory of another. In that scenario, the IFA would be in dangers of being ousted from FIFA altogether if it does not drop the settlement teams … [FIFA President], Infantino, said that the 37-member FIFA Council, which met to discuss the matter two days earlier, felt that “more time was needed,” but that it could possibly resolve the issue within half a year. He acknowledged that, after five years of wrestling with this issue, it is time for FIFA to act, but added that it seems as if this would be the last delay. Two years ago, FIFA established the Monitoring Committee Israel-Palestine, composed of delegations from the IFA and the PFA and chaired by South African Tokyo Sexwale. A report the committee presented to the council on Tuesday was inconclusive, but Infantino said it is possible the council could arrive at a decision in October.

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Article
5 June 2017

Israel & Occupied Palestinian Territories: FIFA’s congress witnesses debates over concerns regarding Israeli clubs playing in settlements

Author: The Guardian

Gianni Infantino rails at ‘fake news’ stories and ‘Fifa-bashing’, 11 May 2017

Gianni Infantino, the president of Fifa which has been devastated by an unprecedented series of multimillion dollar corruption scandals, has attacked “fake news” and alleged media “Fifa bashing” in his address to the congress in Bahrain on Thursday…The congress voted down by a large majority a passionately delivered request from the chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, for the Israeli FA to be given a six-month deadline to remove clubs from playing in settlements built on territories which the United Nations has declared are illegally occupied. Rajoub was opposed by Ofer Eini, chairman of the Israel FA, who argued the status of the territories, principally the West Bank, which were captured by Israeli forces during the 1967 war, is a political issue which Fifa cannot override itself. “Let’s leave it to the politicians,” Eini said. Infantino responded that a task force sent to Israel-Palestine to consider the issue has not fully reported yet, so the Fifa council will wait for its report and make a decision at a meeting in October.

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Report
28 September 2016

Israel & Occupied Palestinian Territories: FIFA doing business in unlawful settlements that are off-limits to Palestinians

Author: Human Rights Watch

Israel/Palestine: FIFA Sponsoring Games on Seized Land; Israeli Settlement Football Clubs Contribute to Human Rights Violations, 25 September 2016

FIFA, the worldwide football association, is sponsoring matches in Israeli settlements in the West Bank on land unlawfully taken from Palestinians… Human Rights Watch investigated the situation of football clubs that play in the Israel Football Association (IFA) but hold their official matches outside Israel, on fields located in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel captured and occupied in 1967…

By allowing the IFA to hold matches inside settlements, FIFA is engaging in business activity that supports Israeli settlements, contrary to the human rights commitments it recently affirmed. An April 2016 report, commissioned by FIFA and written by John Ruggie, the author of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), which outline the human rights responsibilities of businesses, makes specific recommendations for FIFA to implement the UNGP throughout its activities… FIFA said it would respond [to the HRW report] at a later date, and UEFA declined to respond. The IFA sent a response on September 23, 2016. [Responses from other Israeli clubs are included in the report]

In the case of one club playing in the Israeli settlement of Givat Ze’ev, the IFA, and therefore FIFA as well, are holding matches on a playing field that was rendered off-limits to its Palestinian owners, two families from neighboring Beitunia who were unable to access their land after Israel built the settlement in 1977.

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Report
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Author: هيومن رايتس ووتش

إسرائيل/فلسطين: الفيفا ترعى مباريات على أراض مغتصبة، أندية كرة القدم الإسرائيلية في المستوطنات مشاركة في انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان، 25 سبتمبر 2016

أصدرت "هيومن رايتس ووتش" بحثا جديدا قالت فيه إن الفيفا ("الاتحاد الدولي لكرة القدم") ترعى مباريات في المستوطنات الإسرائيلية بالضفة الغربية على أراض انتزعت بشكل غير قانوني من الفلسطينيين... حقّقت هيومن رايتس ووتش في أوضاع الأندية التي تلعب في الاتحاد الإسرائيلي لكرة القدم، وتقيم مبارياتها الرسمية خارج إسرائيل، في ملاعب تقع في المستوطنات الإسرائيلية بالضفة الغربية التي استولت عليها إسرائيل واحتلتها عام 1967...

من خلال سماح الفيفا للاتحاد الاسرائيلي بإجراء مباريات داخل المستوطنات، تنخرط (الفيفا) بذلك في نشاط تجاري يدعم المستوطنات الإسرائيلية، خلافا لالتزامات حقوق الإنسان التي أكدتها مؤخرا. حدّد تقرير كتبه جون روجي، مؤلف "مبادئ الأمم المتحدة التوجيهية بشأن الأعمال التجارية وحقوق الإنسان"، بتكليف من الفيفا وصدر في 16 أبريل/نيسان 2016، مسؤوليات حقوق الإنسان للشركات، وقدم توصيات محددة للفيفا لتنفيذ هذه المبادئ في أنشطتها... طلبت هيومن رايتس ووتش تعليقات من الفيفا والاتحاد الإسرائيلي والاتحاد الأوروبي لكرة القدم. قالت الفيفا إنها سترد في وقت لاحق، بينما رفضت اليويفا الرد. أرسل الاتحاد الإسرائيلي ردا في 23 سبتمبر/أيلول 2016. أرسلت هيومن رايتس ووتش أيضا ملخص التقرير إلى منظمي نوادي المستوطنات، داعية إياهم إلى الرد، فاستجاب مسؤولو 4 من هذه النوادي...

تظهر حالة ناد يلعب في مستوطنة جفعات زئيف أن الاتحاد الاسرائيلي وبالتالي الفيفا، يقيم مباريات على ملعب خارج الحدود يعود لعائلتين فلسطينيتين من بيتونيا المجاورة، لم تتمكنا من الوصول إلى أراضيهما بعد أن بنَت إسرائيل المستوطنات عام 1977، ومنعت الفلسطينيين من دخولها.

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