The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med) today accused the International Federation of Association Football's (FIFA) of turning a blind eye to the Israeli authorities' disruption of the final football match of the Palestine Cup for the second consecutive month, which was supposed to be held between two teams from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, expressing its deepest concern over this.
The Israeli authorities prevented 30 individuals representing the Khadamat Rafah team from traveling from Gaza to the West Bank to play in the finals of the Palestine Cup against Balata Youth Center in Nablus.
Euro-Med said in a statement that this is a clear violation of international law and contradicts FIFA’s principles, which assert the “right to play for everyone.”
The human rights organization rejected the Israeli claim of security concerns behind the prevention, which it said “is merely a cover for its policy of collective punishment against the people of the Gaza Strip.”
The first match between the two Palestinian teams, which was held at the Rafah Municipal Stadium in the southern Gaza Strip on June 30 ended in a draw. The second match was scheduled for July 1 in Balata, Nablus, in the West Bank, which is separated from Gaza by Israeli territory and therefore movement between them require Israeli permission.
Each year, a series of matches are held in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in order to select the winner from both areas in preparation for a final match between the two winning teams to identify the FIFA-recognized Palestine Cup holder.
However, as Israel controls movement between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but more so Gazans reaching the West Bank, athletics and athletes were hardest hit by Israeli restrictions.
The Israeli authorities had previously refused to allow the Palestinian athletics mission from participating in foreign championships, and did the same with the mission of the volleyball team, according to the documentation of local human rights centers that spoke to the Euro-Med.
“This blatant interference by the Israeli authorities that deny Palestinians the right to exercise their basic right to play football contradicts the values of FIFA, which has not acted against the Israeli restrictions on Palestinian athletes,” said Euro-Med.
“The decision to ban a football team from traveling proves that the repressive policy of the Israeli authorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is not out of security concerns, rather it aims at suppressing and oppressing the Palestinians in any way possible," it added.
“While football is being discussed as a bridge to peace in some political workshops, the Israeli authorities burn these bridges under false pretexts.”
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on FIFA to take immediate and urgent action to lift the Israeli restrictions on Palestinian athletes and to enable the Khadamat Rafah team to travel to the West Bank for the finals of the Palestine Cup.
It also called on FIFA to launch an extensive investigation into the Israeli army's repeated targeting of Palestinian sports facilities, and the killing of about 200 Palestinian athletes over the past 10 years, according to statistics obtained by the Euro-Med from the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sports.