Israel must not feel complacent after staving off Palestinian FIFA expulsion bid
FIFA made it clear to Israel: The occupation is unacceptable, and its continuation will result in a series of boycotts whose cost would be unbearable to Israel.
Haaretz Editorial | May 31, 2015 | 1:05 AM
A sigh of relief was heard in Israel after a Palestinian bid to oust it from soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, was dropped on Friday. The fear that the country would be expelled from this important sporting federation has dissipated, but Israel must not think that this means it is no longer under threat, or at risk of suspension from the family of nations.
The Palestinians withdrew their proposal after it was decided that FIFA would form a committee that would monitor Israel’s approach to Palestinian soccer players from the West Bank and Gaza, and their freedom of movement, as well as claims of racism against Arabs in Israeli soccer and the participation of teams from West Bank settlements in the Israeli national league.
Anyone who thinks Israel can ignore this committee – and Palestinian demands for freedom to play and freedom of movement, to ban settler teams and to end racism in Israeli soccer – is mistaken. This kind of assumption could lead to Israel’s suspension from world soccer as early as next year.
The truth must be told: Most, if not all, of the Palestinian demands are reasonable and justified. They were raised in principle two years ago, but Israel preferred to ignore them, as well as the risk of penalization for doing so.
Only now, with the threat of suspension hanging over its head, has Israel belatedly decided to leap into action and save its soccer. Suddenly, freedom of movement can be arranged for soccer players from the West Bank to Gaza, with any attendant “security risk” ignored.
Israel’s message to the world is, therefore, clear and unambiguous: any threats of boycott are wonderfully effective. Only through such threats can Israel seemingly be influenced to change its policies – in soccer, and in other matters as well.
This must not be the message that emerges from Israel – because such a message would greatly strengthen the BDS movement (those advocating boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel).
Freedom of movement for Palestinian soccer players can and should have been ensured long before any threats of suspension, which have done a great deal of damage to Israel. Today, it is soccer; tomorrow, many other realms.
FIFA spelled out to Israel what other, more important, international organizations have so far been unable to explain: that the occupation is unacceptable to any country in the world, and its continuation will result in a series of penalties and boycotts whose cost would be unbearable to Israel. That is the lesson Israel must learn from the FIFA affair.