An op-ed by Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, published at the Guardian (Israeli football cannot continue as a vehicle to legitimise racism, May 19), which calls on FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) to suspend Israel due to racism, is predictably short on facts and long on agitprop.
For instance, Rajoub (who’s also Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee) claims that Palestinian football “clubs [are] more often than not forbidden from bringing players, coaches or even materials from abroad”. Yet, according to Shlomi Barzel, the Israeli Soccer Association’s (ISA) head of communications, “only 1 percent of all Palestinian soccer players are denied travel“. Barzel noted that when Israel does deny Palestinian players exits, it’s because the player is known to present a serious security risk. (As noted on these pages, mainstream news outlets routinely hide or obfuscate the terror background of many Palestinian “footballers” despite ample evidence of their affiliations.)
Rajoub also complains that that ISA violates the FIFA charter by fielding five teams from the West Bank (Maaleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, the Jordan Valley and Givat Zeev). Yet, we could find no reference whatsoever to Israeli settlements – yet alone anything suggesting that teams from the ‘settlements’ are illegal – in the FIFA charter.
Most audaciously, Rajoub’s call to ban Israel – and only Israel among the more than 200 FIFA teams from around the world – from international football includes a plea that “football should be a vehicle of peace“.
Yet, Jibril Rajoub is perhaps the last person who should be lecturing Israelis, or anyone else, on the virtues of peace and tolerance, and the evils of racism and violence.
- In 2014, Rajoub expressed his support for terrorism in an appearance on PA television: “OK, brother, here is the occupation, am I stopping you from slaughtering a settlement? No one is stopping anyone…Our political decision is resistance in the occupied territories in order to bring an end to the occupation using all forms of resistance.”
- Rajoub also told an Arab sports television show that “the whole of Palestine from the river to the sea, is occupied,” implying that all of Israel is “occupied”.
- Rajoub has called Israelis “Satans” and “Zionist sons of bitches.”
- Rajoub also stated that it would be “racist” to commemorate the Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympics.
- Rajoub argued that terrorists throwing hand grenades and the building schools are both equally legitimate forms of pro-Palestinian activism.
- Rajoub is opposed to peace and normalization with Israel.
- But, perhaps most troubling were his remarks that “I swear that if [Palestinians] had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.”
Of course, an Israeli who expressed such views would be dismissed as a right-wing extremist, a dangerous fanatic or even a promoter of genocide. But, at the Guardian, he’s welcomed as progressive voice campaigning for human rights.