Fifa to hold talks over throwing Israel out of world football

The Israel team lines up before their Euro 2024 qualifier against Iceland in March
Israel lost against Iceland in March in a play-off to qualify for this summer's European Championship in Germany - Getty Images/Attila Kisbenedek

Talks on throwing Israel out of world football over its response to the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks are to be held at Fifa’s annual congress next month.

The Palestine Football Association (PFA) has submitted a proposal for inclusion on the agenda for the May 17 congress in Bangkok to address what it branded actions that represented “an existential threat tantamount to genocide”.

The proposal, which is not currently due to be put to a vote, was backed by the FAs of Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Yemen.

Fifa and Uefa have so far resisted calls to ban Israel from tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championship.

Accusing the country of war crimes, the PFA said it had breached a binding order by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to prevent a genocide in Gaza and ignored calls from the United Nations for similar restraint.

Its proposal added: “Since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, at least 39,178 civilians were killed in Gaza including at least 14,622 children, while 73,300 were injured. Four hundred and twenty-five people were killed in the West Bank including 113 children. By 11 March 2024, at least 92 footballers, including 23 young juniors, were killed.

“Until 11 March, Israeli attacks have damaged or destroyed 356,900 residential units, which is 80 per cent of Gaza’s homes. 435 educational facilities, including all universities and 90 per cent of the schools, and 624 places of worship were destroyed or damaged. Ten out of 35 hospitals are only partially functioning – the rest have been destroyed.”

The proposal cited Fifa’s decision to throw Russia out of world football following its invasion of Ukraine, which it took after other countries refused to play the rogue state and further justified by invoking security and safety concerns.

‘Good chance some FAs will refuse to play Israel’

The PFA added: “Given the global tensions and sentiments regarding the situation in Gaza, it is hard to understand why the same safety and security arguments have not been brought out by Fifa in case of Israel. There is a good chance that some football associations (FAs) will refuse to play against Israel.”

The proposal also accused the Israeli FA of several breaches of Fifa statutes, including the protection of human rights and the prevention of discrimination.

The proposal concluded: “An unbearable human tragedy is unfolding before our eyes in Gaza, Palestine. The unprecedented destruction continues to rise along with the civilian death toll. The UN has called on the international community to prevent genocide against the Palestinian people, and the ICJ ‘found it plausible that Israel’s acts could amount to genocide’.

“The IFA continues to represent the interests of its government which violate Fifa statutes by continuing to include illegal settlement clubs located on the territory of Palestine in its national league. Furthermore, it continues to allow racism in its league to go unchecked. The Fifa members are all bound by the obligation to protect and safeguard human rights, and abide by the statutes.

“The failure as an international organisation to take decisive action to address the grievances presented by one of the member associations whose rights continue to be violated will only normalise these violations and embolden those who commit them further. Failing to take decisive action in accordance with the Fifa statutes would leave an unwelcome precedent.”

Fifa did not comment on the development, instead referring to president Gianni Infantino’s letter to the IFA and PFA following the outbreak of the war in Gaza.

“Fifa joins in calling for the immediate end of hostilities and for the immediate relief of the suffering of the people of both Israel and Palestine,” he said.

“Of course, we know that football cannot solve the problems of the world, but it can play even a small part in bringing a light of hope where there appears to be only darkness ahead.”

The IFA said: “The call for IFA to be suspended from its FIFA membership and participation in international tournaments is nothing but a cynical and shameless move. We do not take this lightly and well prepared for battle on this issue, all of which ended in previous attempts in a moral and practical victory against hypocrisy and hostility that no cover or excuse can hide its true motives. Once again, the IFA, along with brave and fair friends in Fifa, Uefa, and other confederations and associations around the world, will fight against dark forces and prevent them from achieving their evil targets. Fairness, honesty and justice will prevail once again.”

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