THE ELECTRONIC INTIFADA – Maureen Clare Murphy
While posing as a humanitarian body on Twitter, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation is waging war on Palestinian football.
COGAT – as that arm of the occupation is called – has denied a football team in Gaza permission to travel to the West Bank for a Palestine Cup rematch. The FIFA-recognized competition determines which team will represent Palestine in the Asian Champions League.
An Israeli court rejected a petition challenging the ban on the players’ travel.
The team has been prevented from traveling to the West Bank due to unspecified “security concerns,” according to Gisha, a human rights group that petitioned the court.
A Palestine Cup match between Khadamat Rafah club and Markaz Balata was held in Gaza on 30 June, ending in a draw.
Khadamat Rafah, based in Gaza, was informed three days before the 3 July rematch that 31 of its 35 permit applications had been rejected.
Last week COGAT approved permits for the rematch, postponed to 25 September, to fewer than half the members of the club. Israel approved permits for only five players, according to Gisha.
Gisha’s court petition notes that “any further delay of the rematch would jeopardize the winning club’s entry into the Asian Champions League.”
The group adds that “sporting events are listed in Israel’s narrow criteria for eligibility for travel permits.”
This Wednesday, Khadamat Rafah was meant to face off against FC Balata in the West Bank in the #FIFA-recognized Palestine Cup. How does Israel perpetuate the separation btw Gaza and the West Bank? By blocking 23 (!) players under dubious security claims.https://t.co/fYUK9GTQbD
— Tania Hary (@taniahary) September 23, 2019
That's how long Israel has been blocking the Palestine Football Cup.
Palestinians must request travel permits from Israel. Israel has blocked most players of the winning Gaza League team from traveling for the finals. @FIFAcom remains silent. https://t.co/xok5bpk96k pic.twitter.com/gvAcaLyFz7
— PACBI (@PACBI) September 23, 2019
Israel’s severe restrictions on travel between the West Bank and Gaza “undermines the functioning of Palestinian society as a whole,” according to Gisha.
Green card for rights violations
While Palestinian football is held hostage by Israel, the world football governing body FIFA has refused to take action against Israeli football clubs located in West Bank settlements.
Human Rights Watch has stated that settlement football clubs contribute to human rights violations, as “settlements are built on land seized from Palestinians.”
FIFA suspended South Africa in the 1960s when it was run by an apartheid government. The organization has taken a more lenient approach to apartheid as practiced by Israel.
Palestinian campaigners are demanding that sportswear company Puma drops its sponsorship of football teams based in Israeli settlements.
All Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal under international law.