EU parliamentarians urge FIFA to ban Israeli settlement soccer clubs

Brussels :A group of European lawmakers asked football’s world governing body FIFA to ban Israeli clubs based in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In a letter to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, 66 MEPs identified five clubs based in the settlements and insisted they either move inside Israel’s internationally-accepted borders, or be excluded from the Israeli Football Association.

“I am not asking FIFA to suspend Israel, we just want it to apply the rules,” said Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith, who launched the appeal.

“Allowing Israel to use football as an instrument of territorial expansion in the West Bank politicises football— and this is not acceptable,” he said in a statement.

All five clubs play in the third and fourth divisions. The Palestinians have long opposed the participation in the Israeli championships of the same five clubs.

In their letter, the European parliament members said: “FIFA should rule that settlement clubs either fully relocate within Israel’s internationally-recognised borders or are excluded from the Israeli Football Association.”

It said the clubs were located on Palestinian land seen as occupied by the UN and therefore should fall under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA).

The five teams are Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, Bikat Hayarden and Givat Zeev. FIFA is expected to discuss the issue at its October 13-14 council meeting, Smith said.

The MEPs cited UEFA’s 2014 decision to ban Crimean football clubs from taking part in Russian competitions as a precedent for barring the settlement teams.

Last year, the PFA threatened to table a resolution calling on FIFA to suspend Israel over its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players in a move which also included a protest over the five settlement teams. It withdrew the bid at the last minute.

Israel denounced the move as an attempt to mix politicsand sport, saying such matters had no place within FIFA.

Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War in a move never recognised by the international community.

Jewish settlements built on land the Palestinians want for a future state are considered illegal under international law and Israel’s ongoing settlement construction has been a major stumbling block to decades of peace efforts.