The Palestinian Authority is seeking to have Israel suspended from FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, global soccer’s governing body. If the motion passes on May 29, 2015, Israel would become the world’s only nation to be banned from FIFA matches around the world.

“We will never, ever accept any compromise, any agreement or deal,” Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub has explained. A former security official in the PLO’s feared security apparatus, Rajoub regards sports as a tool to help the Palestinian Unity Government between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority achieve statehood without taking concrete steps to negotiate with Israel.

Rajoub’s complaint to FIFA has three main components, each of which is strongly refuted by Israel as grounds for their suspension: that Israel restricts the movement of Palestinian players, particularly between Gaza and the West Bank; five of Israel’s soccer teams are located outside of Israel’s 1967 cease-fire lines with Jordan; and that Israel’s Football Association turns a blind eye to racism.

Israel refutes Rajoub’s three complaints to FIFA.

The reality is different. Far from ignoring racism among fans, the Israeli Football Association is the only Middle Eastern soccer association with an anti-racism program, and it hasn’t been afraid to censure those Israeli teams that have violated antidiscrimination standards.

(Unfortunately, nasty chants by fans are a fixture of soccer matches, and not only in the Middle East. April 2015 saw Bosnian fans at a soccer match in Vienna shouting first “Fee Palestine” which quickly mutated into calls to “Kill the Jews”, while Dutch police are currently investigating fans who chanted anti-Semitic slogans at a game there a few days later. Crowds sang and clapped as they chanted such slogans as “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas”, “Jews burn the best” and that Jews should be sent “to the gas chambers”.) Only in Israel – alone among Middle Eastern nations – would any offensive statements by fans at soccer matches be cause for official action.

Complaints that Israel restricts the free movement of Palestinian players don’t stand up to scrutiny either. Rotem Kemer, Chief Executive of the Israeli Football Association, told The New York Times “more than 95% of Palestinian requests for player movement had been approved so far this year, and that those rejected ‘probably had some background involving terrorism’”. Israeli soccer authorities also point out that they have no control over the security situation. “We have found ourselves in the last two months in a political conflict that has nothing to do with football in the region” – yet they are being held accountable for security needs that the Palestinian Unity Government themselves helps create.

The fact that five of Israel’s associated soccer teams play outside of Israel’s 1967 borders isn’t unusual within FIFA, either. FIFA, which proudly calls itself the “United Nations of Football”, has refused to take sides during recent conflicts. As Simon Johnson, a former British Football Association official points out, “During the Balkan conflict, the Afghan and Iraq wars, the Somalia conflict, the civil wars in Sudan and in the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, FIFA has kept itself above politics and has not taken steps that might favor one side or another in a political conflict.”

With 209 members – more than the number of nation-states – FIFA admits regions and contested territories as members. It currently lists human-rights disasters like Saudi Arabia – which this month publicly advertised for eight new public executioners to keep pace with its massive rate of public beheadings and limb amputations – and Burundi, which this month suffered a violent attempted coup, resulting in 50,000 refugees fleeing to neighboring Rwanda – as members, among others.

It also tolerates non-nation states as members. FIFA was the first international organization to recognize Palestine, admitting the Palestinian Football Association in 1998 – where it joined Scotland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, and other regions as members that are not internationally recognized as sovereign states.

Since its founding in 1904, FIFA has banned only two members: apartheid-era South Africa in 1964, and Yugoslavia under Slobodan Milosevic in 1994. This is the precedent that Jibril Rajoub and his Palestinian Football Association are hoping to follow. Jibril Rajoub first filed a formal complaint with FIFA in 2013, asking for Israel’s ouster. FIFA President Sepp Blatter responded by setting up a liaison mechanism to work with Israeli and Palestinian footballers, but resolving real issues has never seemed to be Rajoub’s actual goal; using soccer to help demonize the Jewish State is.

Rajoub insists there has been no improvement in conditions for Palestinian soccer players and has warned that if the upcoming vote doesn’t go his way, he’ll take his drive to ban Israel from world soccer to the Swiss-based Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) next.

In his book, "Catch the Jew," the German-based Israeli journalist Tuvia Tenenbom recounts his interview with Jibril Rajoub in 2014: “At present he is heading the Palestinian Football Federation and the Palestine Olympic Committee, but don’t kid yourself. Among his list of previous jobs is being the leader of the Palestinian Preventative Security Force, a fearsome intelligence and security apparatus. This man is a master fighter, a master spy, and a master manipulator,” he wrote. As Tenenbom took Rajoub’s business card – it’s gold-plated and describes Rajoub as “Major General” – Tenenbom asked how such a senior figure could be satisfied running a soccer body. “Resistance does not mean only military resistance,” Rajoub replied. “I started to understand that our aspirations could be achieved through other tools.” Sport, he explained, “is an effective tool to achieve our national aspirations.”

Make Your Voice Heard

Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s president isn’t happy about this abuse of his organization for political goals, calling it “inappropriate” and an abuse of FIFA’s statutes. “I believe football should be a bridge that shows governments that football brings people together, not be a weapon,” Blatter said of the Palestinians’ resolution.

With a little more than a week to go before the vote, Blatter flew to the Middle East to engage in a furious round of shuttle diplomacy. After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blatter said he was confident that a “peace match” between Israelis and Palestinians could be arranged – but was far from certain that he could broker a compromise with the Palestinian Unity Government.

In the run-up to the FIFA vote, people around the world have had their say – in many cases, advocating against Israel. A global petition to support Israel’s ban (and to boycott it culturally and commercially) as of May 20, 2015 had over 20,000 signatories; no comparable petition in support of the Jewish State yet seemed to exist.

As world soccer associations prepare to vote, Israel’s supporters around the world must make their voices heard as well. Contact your local soccer teams and (politely) urge them to vote against the Palestinian Football Association’s proposed ban. Write letters to the editor, and don’t be afraid to state Israel’s case with friends and colleagues. Contact FIFA (their website is and let them you want Israel to remain a member in good standing.