Should Palestinian supporters book their tickets to the ICC?

While friends and supporters of Palestine were outside the Zurich Venue of FIFAs Congress, holding placards and Palestinian flags, the Palestine Football Association was inside working out a deal to pull the motion to ban the Israeli Football Federation (IFA).

Instead of forcing the Congress to consider the motion which sets out why the IFA should be suspended because of Israel’s breaches of  FIFAs statutes, Jibril Rajoub, Head of the PFA agreed to drop the call for expulsion in return for formation of a committee to examine the outstanding issues. Far from showing Israel the red card, the PA gave away another card it holds to bring Israel to account for nothing. 

Israel will be the happier of the two  sides. The Palestinian people and their supporters are again left wondering how the PA repeatedly postures and backtracks at the last minute. They are also angered by what they see as a missed opportunity to bring Israel to account.

I know people who travelled to Zurich to demonstrate outside the venue and who have conducted an excellent campaign to ‘show Israel the Red Card’. I feel embarrassed as a Palestinian that while our supporters show unbelievable commitment to the Palestinian people, the Palestinian leadership takes this for granted. They call on the world to show support and solidarity, get it and then pull the carpet from under them, literally as they demonstrate for Palestinian rights. How can we continue to ask them for unquestioned support if the leadership then capitulates?

The PA will claim that they came under sustained pressure to pull the motion. Israel will have worked tirelessly behind the scenes. Netanyahu threatened FIFA with ‘destruction’. But the PA knew that would happen. It was hardly a surprise.

The Palestinian people and their supporters remember the hope for Israeli accountability generated when the International Court of Justice gave its advisory about the illegality of the Separation Wall in 2004 and remember the Goldstone report on Israel’s  war in Gaza in 2009. Both were important cards the PA chose not to use at the time and continue to do so to this day.

Can the Palestinian people believe any more of the PAs threats (postures) in the future? Should Palestinian supporters plan their trip to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where the PA intends to go next, to show their support? Or should they save their money and use their well earned days off from work for a well deserved holiday instead?

The PA needs to surprise us all. It needs to go to the ICC with the cases against settlements and the 2014 war on Gaza and stick with it until Israeli war criminals are brought to justice. It has let the Palestinians down for too long and has taken the solidarity movement for granted for too long. 

I want to say to supporters of the Palestinians with confidence, book your tickets and prepare the Palestinian flags for your trip to the ICC.

Updated 31/5/2015

The President of the Palestinian Football Federation, Jibril Rajoub explained what happened at the FIFA Congress in an interview in Arabic with Slarabia Alhadarh channel. He said that the motion to suspend Israel from FIFA was not pulled, but was suspended to allow a committee to investigate the claims of hindering Palestinian football’s development and racism in Israel against Pakestjnian citizens. He said that the issue of 5 teams from the settlements playing in the Israrli league needed investigation to ascertain whether it was legal. He also said there was a threat to put a motion in front of Congress to prohibit the suspension of any member of FIFA at the request of another member before the Palestijian motion was put. Thus would gave effectively made it inadmissible. He explained that by agreeing to ‘suspend’ the suspension motion and receiving 90% support, including Europesn members, Palestine made done key wins that will help to either improve the situation or to bring back a suspension motion in future.

Rajoub also stated that he had voted for Prince Ali Bin Alhussain for the  leadership of FIFA but had not made it public initially for tactical reasons connected to the Palestinian motion. 

Rajoub had come under attack for both ‘pulling’ the Palestinian motion and his lack of public support for Prince Ali. He accused those with political agendas for pursuing these ‘false’ claims.

The problem is how the message is communicated to Palestinian supporters who are left angry at the withdrawal of the Palestinuan motion and the kerf river capitulation by the PA.

Below us s copy if the resolution passed by FIFA Congress on Friday 29/5/2015 Via @jibrilrajoub.


Blair resignation eclipsed by FIFA crisis

The Middle East envoy Tony Blair finally let go of his role on the day the FIFA crisis blew, the 27th of May. Normally PR experts look to sue bad news on a day when it can be buried under other more prominent news.  But his resignation was such good news for Palestinains it is a pity it was almost hurried. This is of course not the view you will get from Israeli leaders for whom Blair was a good send. Over the years not only have the Palestinians faced a pro Israeli ‘peace broker’ in the USA, They also faced pro Israeli Bliar.

The Middle East Quartet is made up of the USA, the EU, the UN and Russia. Their envoy, Bliar spent eight years supposedly bringing peace between Palestinians and Israel nearer but you’d have to be very creative to point to any contribution to peace, certainly not for Palestinains.

Under his watch, the siege on Gaza has been tightened, Gaza faced three destructive attacks by Israel, settlements have expanded to now housing some 650,000 illegal Jewish settlers. House demolitions have continued, Israel continued to build the Apartheid Wall, the number of Palestinain prisoners is almost at the same level as it was when he started in his role and settler terrorism has escalated. If Mr Blair was on performance related pay he would not have had any bonus over the last eight years. Indeed he would have been eased out of the role for failure to deliver.

It is true to say that this was not a paid role but numerous trips to the region, an initial suite at the famous American Colony Hotel in the early days and lots of good food and wine provided reasonable compensation. But as has been reported, the exposure this gave him and of course his Prime Miniserial experience have enabled hism to make millions rom his consultancy work. His company, Tony Blair Associates describes its services as

“the umbrella organisation for our commercial operations. 

We work with governments on the path of reform providing advice and support on key areas of governance, modernisation and implementation.

We provide geopolitical and strategic advice to multinational corporations.

We bring together institutional investors with potential investment opportunities.
Tony Blair’s commercial activities provide important funding for his philanthropic work.”

And confirms this activity as “entirely separate from the Foundations which are independent charitable entities accountable to their own boards and trustees and subject to applicable charity regulations”.

Googling ‘Tony Blair Associates’ is an eye opener. How he has found time to do any work as the Quartet Envoy is a mystery. In 2011 he was declared persona non grata by Palestinains for His perceived Israel bias and he has hardly engaged with them since.

When war broke out last summer between Israel and Hamas. He was nowhere to be seen. When interviewed by YNet last July he was asked what he was doing and his answer was “I am doing what I can” and that he operated “under the radar”. It seems again he did not contribute at a critical time to reducing tensions or to saving lives.

When news of his possible resignation surfaced a few weeks ago it was suggested that he was looking for a change of role rather than to resign. A bit like a retiring football manager who is elevated to the Board.  But in that type of scenario, the manager would have made a huge contribution to the club and is adored by the fans. Blair has at best made little contribution and will not be missed by the stakeholders.

Palestinians have already expressed their quiet satisfaction at his resignation. They can hardly do worse. His resignation provides an opportunity to reconsider the whole peace process charade and the role of the Quartet. It would not be missed as has been evident from its existence but lack of influence over the past years.

The Europeans seem to be anxious to play a ,evading role in a revitalised peace process but they have already encountered a new manoeuvre by the wriggly Netanyahu. In an attempt to present himself as ‘flexible’, he has offered to start negotiations about the borders of the settlement blocks, which he claims Israel will annex in any peace deal. The Palestinains have rejected this, at least for now. Pressure will grow on them to play but they should red card him as FIFA should red card the Israeli Football Association.

Good bye Tony and forgive me for not wishing you any luck for the future.Quite honestly, you are doing very well without it.

FIFA arrests on the eve of Congress to discuss suspension of Israeli Football Association

I am not one for conspiracy theories. Now comes the ‘but’. 

Can it be a complete coincidence that the arrests of seven top FIFA officials took place on the 27th of May 2015, just two days before FIFA’s Congress? Two key items were on the agenda, the election of FIFA’s next President and the discussion of a motion by the Palestinian Football Association   (PFA) to suspend the Israeli Football Association (IFA) for Israel’s violations of the rights of Palestinians to play football at all levels.

Reports say that the allegations levelled at FIFAs officials go back for a couple of decades. This means that a shot across the bow of officials could have been fired years ago. One has to question why it has taken this long to arrest some officials when speculation that there has been corruption in FIFA go back for years.

It would appear from early reports that the allegations do not relate to the award of the World Cup finals to Russia or Qatar. One of the allegations relate to the award of the World Cup  to Siuth Africa back in 2010.

I like every football supporter and indeed non supporters would want those that broke the Law to be brought to justice. I also have to question how this extensive corruption was either tolerated or went unnoticed by the President of FIFA Seb Blatter.

Blatter is standing again for a fifth term. There is much opposition to this especially from the English FA. There is only one opponent, Prince Ali of Jordan. I am sure that Prince Ali would make an excellent President but all predictions indicate that Blatter was expected to win in Friday and even now is expected to win if the elections are not postponed due to the current ‘difficulties’.

But why have these arrests taken place now? I am sure the FBI would say that their investigations had reached the point when they could and that would be fair. The various suspects were in Seitzerland for the Congress and therefore the arrests themselves could be more easily coordinated could be another defence. But could the fact that the Palestinians were determined to bring the motion to suspend the IFA from FIFA have had anything to do with this whole affair?

The head of the Palestine Football Association General Jibril Rajoub left for Switzerland in order to attend the 65th FIFA Congress. Before departing he said “we are going to Zurich in order to protect Palestinian footballers and to fulfill our rights according to the FIFA Statutes. Nobody should be treated as an association above the law.” The full press release goes on to say “Our asks are clear, just and fair: Freedom of movement, end of racism and expulsion of all teams from illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine competing in the Israeli league.”

With Israel determined to continue with its interference in Palestinian football using ‘security needs’ as an excuse, the Pslestinians would have been left with no option but to seek the IFAs suspension. Sep Blatter made a last minute attempt to convince the Israelis to  respond to Palestinian grievances during his recent visit but he failed.

The Palestinian bid to suspend Israel needs the support of two thirds of FIFAs membership to succeed. Unlike the United Nations Security Council, no state holds a veto. There was therefore a chance that the bid could succeed. If it did, it could be a tipping point for the BDS movement and Israrl’s isolation would have increased.  

At the time of writing no decision has been made either for the elections for President or the FIFA Congress to be postponed. However, there is growing pressure for both to be postponed, including from the General Secretary of UEFA.

If Congress is postponed one can be certain that Israel will be delighted.

Updated 28/5/2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns that FIFA will be ‘destroyed’ if it bans Israel. The FIFA Congress is due to discuss a Palestinian motion to suspend the Israeli Football Association on 29 May.

Updated 29/5/2015

The Palestinian Football Association dropped its bid to ban the Israeli Football Association from FIFA. Another opportunity missed to send a clear message to Israel that it must change. Israel will now go away to conduct business as usual and the Palestinians will endure the same oppression.

Update 30 May 2015

Former ANC leader and anti-apartheid activist Tokyo Sexwale appointed lead of committee to monitor Israeli policies towards Palestinian footballers.