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FIFA Criticized for Israeli Teams (30/09/2016)

The Human Rights Watch and Palestinian Football League have asked FIFA to stop Israeli teams from playing in the West Bank

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The Aroni Ariel football team locker room in the West Bank (credit: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized FIFA for holding football matches in occupied Palestinian territories. It has called for the international sports body to immediately move games from Jewish settlements in the West Bank to within Israel.

Sari Bashi, the Israel and Palestine country director of HRW, has accused FIFA of "tarnishing the beautiful game of football” by holding matches in Jewish settlements, whose existence violate international law and are only accessible by Jewish Israelis.

At the moment, six Israeli teams practice and play in the West Bank settlements, which are on Palestinian land that was seized during the Six Day War in 1967. Critics are claiming that FIFA is legitimizing the occupation by allowing the Israeli teams to play in the settlements.

“FIFA has new leadership and has made new commitments to human rights this year. FIFA should step up now to give settlement clubs a red card and insist the Israel Football Association (IRF) play by the rules,” Bashi told the French Press Agency, speaking of recently elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

“Some of these games are played on land owned by individual Palestinians not allowed to access the area, while others are held on land belonging to Palestinian villages that the Israeli military seized and designated for exclusive Israeli civilian use,” she added, citing the Fourth Geneva Convention, which has declared the settlements unlawful.

The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has similarly requested that the “Palestinian Liberation Organization” and FIFA stop the games taking place in Israeli settlements, as well as thanked the Human Rights Watch for highlighting this issue.

The IRF has responded by accusing the HRW of dragging the sport “from the football field into a political one.”

The Palestinian Football Association has made a formal complaint to FIFA and it is expected that the issue will brought up in an upcoming meeting of FIFA’s executive committee on October 13th-14th.


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