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Palestinian FA Condemns Fifa's 'Strange, Contradictory' Ban of Its President

A poster of Palestinian FA chief Jibril Rajoub with Argentina's soccer player Lionel Messi, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank June 6, 2018. | Photo: Reuters A poster of Palestinian FA chief Jibril Rajoub with Argentina's soccer player Lionel Messi, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank June 6, 2018. | Photo: Reuters
Susan Shalabi, the vice-president to the Palestinian Football Association,  condemned a move by FIFA to ban the head of the Palestinian FA Jibril Rajoub from all soccer-related activity for a year Saturday.

FIFA announced the decision against Rajoub Friday charging that he incited hatred and violence before a friendly planned between Israel and Argentina.

Rajoub protested after Israel switched the venue of the June game from Haifa to Jerusalem. He urged Palestinians to burn shirts bearing the name of Lionel Messi if Argentina's star went ahead and played there. The match was subsequently canceled in early June.

"We find it strange that FIFA was very quick to convict the President of the Palestine Football Association while at the same time, it has been very slow in guaranteeing the rights of Palestinian children to play freely and without hindrance in their lands, in Palestine," Shalabi said. 

Adding: "I think unless FIFA addresses the core problem, this series of events will never end, it will never stop here. On our part, as always, we have always respected the FIFA status, we have respected the rule of law, we will continue to respect it, and we will continue to pursue this in all the legal avenues that are available for us."

The change of venue came at a particularly sensitive time after United States President Donald Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, infuriating Palestinians who want the eastern part of the city as the capital of their own future state.

Following the cancelation, Israel attempted to discredit the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) claiming it was anti-Semitic and accusing supporters of alleged “threats and provocations directed at Lionel Messi.”

According to the Isreali narrative, Argentine players did not refuse to play in response to Israel’s murder of over 120 Palestinians demonstrators in Gaza, or in response to what human rights groups call a shoot-to-kill-or-maim-policy. They refused to play in Jerusalem because Palestinians are “violent” and “threatening.” Even more so than ISIS.

Argentina’s foreign minister Jorge Faurie upholds the same narrative. In a recent radio interview, Fauri said the team was unsettled by “a series of threats that came via the internet.” A sports journalists confronted him, reminding him Messi had previously dismissed ISIS threats on the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Global soccer body FIFA said Friday its disciplinary committee considered Rajoub's statements "incited hatred and violence." It banned him for 12 months and fined him 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,000).

Rajoub, it said, was banned from "taking part in any future match or competition taking place during the given period." That included attending matches in any official capacity and participating in media activities at or near stadiums on match days, it added.

Israel's football association has refused to comment.

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