Palestine's call to oust Israel from Fifa stirs further controversy

Palestine's call to oust Israel from Fifa stirs further controversy
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Published May 19th, 2015 - 16:36 GMT via

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Israel claims that the Palestinians are attempting to drag FIFA into politics
Israel claims that the Palestinians are attempting to drag FIFA into politics

The Israel Football Association (IFA) Tuesday rejected Palestinian calls for it to be thrown out of the world governing body FIFA.

The 209 FIFA members are scheduled to vote on the motion by the Palestine Football Association (PFA) at their annual congress in Zurich on May 29.

The PFA cites stringent Israeli security restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players and equipment as the reason, with no progress made on the issue in recent months.

It also charges that its Israeli counterpart is allowing a "racist" club, Beitar Jerusalem, to participate in the Israeli national league.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter is due to discuss the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem and Ramallah Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Palestinians were getting sport involved in politics, IFA CEO Rotem Kemer charged.

"Unfortunately we find ourselves now as some kind of hostage in the fight against our government," he said.

He said his association saw the "unprecedented" Palestinian proposal "as a clear mix of politics and football."

"Football in our region should be used as a bridge between people to show to our governments and to everyone that football can bring people together and (should) not be uses as a weapon against each other," he told reporters.

He said more than 95 per cent of all requests by Palestinian sportsmen to cross over Israeli-controlled borders were approved. The IFA had not control over those requested by the Israeli government for security reasons.

On Beitar Jerussalem, he said the IFA was combating racism and severely punishing any display of it in Israeli sport, including by stripping a club of points, a move he called unprecedented.

"I don't know how many football associations around the world that actually deducted points, league points, from a football club because of such kind of behaviour," he said, adding that the phenomenon of racist expressions by extremist supporters existed all over the world, also in the form of anti-Semitism.

Singling out Israel over the issue while it was working hard to fight it was "cynical," he charged.

The Palestine motion is highly unlikely to get the required three-quarter majority but Blatter reportedly hopes to have the issue solved before the congress where he seeks relection for a fifth term.

He allegedly tried to urge Palestinian officials last month to drop the proposal.

The dispute was on the agenda of last year's FIFA congress, where a monitoring system was agreed upon, and its executive committee in December. In addition, Palestine and Israel football leaders met Blatter last week at the FIFA headquarters.

© 2015 dpa GmbH

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