In an ongoing effort to "kick terrorism out of football," various research organizations have submitted joint and separate complaints to the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) about the behavior of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) and its president, Jibril Rajoub.
At least five highly regarded non-governmental organizations -- Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), NGO Monitor, the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, UK Lawyers for Israel and the New York-based Lawfare Project -- have enumerated the many and varied ways in which Rajoub -- the secretary-general of the central committee of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, the chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee and the head of the Supreme Council for Sport and Youth -- has violated FIFA's own Code of Ethics, "by promoting and glorifying terrorism; inciting hatred and violence; promoting racism; and preventing the use of the game of football in order to build a bridge for peace."
An extensive PMW report highlights Rajoub's exploitation of his various roles in the world of sports to cultivate a terrorist mind-frame among Palestinian youth and incite to murder of Jews and Israelis. A stark example -- particularly for the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee -- was Rajoub's attendance at, and stamp of approval for, a boxing tournament honoring the terrorist who planned the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, headlined the August 9, 2010 report: In the presence of [Jibril] Rajoub - successful conclusion to the Second Palestine Boxing Tournament for youth and men in Hebron." The item itself read:
"The tournament [was] held at the Shari'ah School for Boys in Hebron, and was named by the Palestinian Boxing Association after Martyr (Shahid) Ali Hassan Salameh, the 'Red Prince.'"
In July 2012, while addressing the launch of the first Forum for Arab women sports journalists, Rajoub referred to Jews and Israelis as "Satans" and "Zionist sons of bitches," adding, "Normalization with the occupation is impossible, impossible, impossible, with no exceptions..."
In December 2015, Rajoub sponsored a table tennis tournament named after Muhannad Halabi, the Palestinian who murdered two Israelis -- Rabbi Nehemia Lavie and Aharon Benita -- while they were walking to the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Oct. 3, 2015. Halabi also stabbed Bennett's wife, Adele, and their two-year-old son, before being shot and killed by Israeli police -- immediately earning him the status of "martyr" by the PA.
Jibril Rajoub speaks at the 65th FIFA Congress on May 29, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)
These are but three cases of Rajoub's long history of incitement and of lauding terrorism. However, as PMW pointed out, he has been "very calculating" in his public stance on the murder of Israelis. On October 17, 2015, about two weeks after the launch of what has come to be called the "lone-wolf" or "knife" intifada, Rajoub coached viewers of the PA's official TV station how to avoid condemnation for the killing of innocent people. The international community, he said, "does not agree to a bus exploding in Tel Aviv. But the international community does not ask what happens to a settler or soldier in the occupied territories at the wrong time and in the wrong place. No one asks about him! Therefore, we want to fight in a way that the world and the international community will remain by our side."
Rajoub's efforts to provide his deeds -- and predominantly Arabic words for internal consumption -- with a mantle of political legitimacy involve accusing Israeli sports clubs of wrongdoing. Most recently, on June 13, 2017, the PFA filed an appeal with the Lausanne-headquartered Tribunal Arbitral Du Sport (Court of Arbitration for Sport, CAS), to void a FIFA resolution, passed at its Congress in May, to delay until March 2018 a decision on whether Israeli football (soccer) teams have a right to play in the West Bank, which the PA considers "occupied" Palestinian territory. More significantly, the PFA has presented its claim that blocking the Israeli teams is justified to five separate FIFA Congresses.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino nevertheless said that the CAS's final ruling on the matter will likely be announced five months earlier -- at the next Congress in India in October 2017. In the meantime, however, it is FIFA that should be taking action against Rajoub and the PFA. That it has not done so is shocking, considering that even the most perfunctory review of the FIFA Statutes -- which names at one of its objectives "to improve the game of football constantly and promote it globally in the light of its unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values, particularly through youth and development programmes" -- makes it clear that Rajoub is a serial violator and must be expelled from the organization.
According to the statutes, last updated on April 27, 2016:
"Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin colour, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion."
In addition, FIFA states that member associations must "...be neutral in matters of politics and religion; ...prohibit all forms of discrimination... and be independent and avoid any form of political interference."
If FIFA has been disregarding the PFA's many breaches to its bylaws -- either inadvertently or for political reasons -- the evidence provided by PMW means that it can no longer ignore the appalling practices of one of its members. Swift action needs to be taken to oust Rajoub, and pressure should be put on the Palestinian Authority to replace him with a chairman whose passion for sports and sportsmanship is greater than his thirst for blood.
In a world rocked by jihadi terrorist attacks -- including at sports arenas -- this is not merely a matter for soccer fans. It is a microcosm of the way in which young Muslims are being educated by extremist regimes, among them the Palestinian Authority. FIFA has a duty to prevent the game -- the purity of which it purports to protect from abuse -- from being corrupted at the hands of radicals such as Rajoub.
A.Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.