Sexwale: Israel-Palestine FIFA’s "headache" issue

  • Sexwale Tokyo - Fifa HOME
In another attempt to end the impasse, FIFA envoy Tokyo Sexwale, pictured, visited Jerusalem and Ramallah last week, to try and seek a deal all parties would support on the Palestinian objection to five to the six Israeli football clubs being based in ‘occupied territory’. This followed FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s statement last month that the issue was a "priority" for him and for Sexwale, who chairs the FIFA Monitoring Committee on Israel-Palestine. Read about the brouhaha...
by ANT KATZ | Nov 28, 2016

Tokyo Sexwale has been a member of the international governing body of football, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and even stood for the presidential post earlier this year. Sexwale is currently head of FIFA’s ‘Monitoring Committee on Israel-Palestine’.

"The biggest headache is a question of the clubs which are playing in the settlements. That is where we need people to make a move," Sexwale said after a meeting with Palestinian Football Association head Jibril Rajoub last Tuesday.

Sexwale Tokyo - Fifa

RIGHT: A file picture of Sexwale who also met with Israeli Culture and Sport Minister, Miri Regev, the head of IFA and the Prime Minister in Jerusalem on Monday

The African News Agency (ANA) reported that Sexwale, a former Robben Island political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist, was in Israel to discuss the “contentious issue of Israel’s continued membership of FIFA.”

FIFA postponed taking a decision on the issue of ‘settlement clubs’ last month as they are waiting for Sexwale's report. Sexwale told French news agency AFP last week that the report he was preparing would be "be very clear and loud" about the matter. This statement aroused Israeli pundits who have been speculating that it sounds ominous for the Holy Land.  

Rajoub’s statement after meeting Sexwale, that his organisation were "looking forward to seeing a clear-cut resolution" to enable Palestinian football to develop "freely like any other nation" – only added fuel to the pundits’ speculation.

The Israel Football Association has accused the Palestinians of dragging sport "from the football field into a political one".

Six clubs in the Israeli football league play in West Bank Jewish settlements. The Palestinians have long opposed the participation in the Israeli championships of the settlement clubs, which play in Israel's third, fourth and fifth divisions.

Meeting the big chiefs

The official FIFA website also noted that Sexwale had held “separate important meetings with Israel Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President, Mr Mahmoud Abbas.”

Sexwale Tokyo Nov 16Explained FIFA, “the objective of the discussions was to provide both leaders with an update of the work of the Monitoring Committee regarding two matters, namely the movement of people and football goods in and out of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as the contentious question of the Israeli clubs playing in the settlements.

LEFT: Sexwale briefing media last week

The meeting with Mr Netanyahu took place at his office in Jerusalem and that with Mr Abbas in his Ramallah office,” said FIFA.

Mr Sexwale and his delegation were always accompanied by members of either the Israel Football Association (IFA) or the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), who are members of the monitoring committee.

These included the PFA President Mr Jibril Rajoub and the IFA General Secretary Mr Rotem Kamer, according to the FIFA website.

H-Rights Watch gets involved

Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week sent a report to Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, high commissioner at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), outlining HRW’s take on the FIFA issue.

“Through its affiliate, the Israel Football Association (IFA), FIFA is organising matches in Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” stated HRW’s report. “By allowing the IFA to organise games inside settlements, FIFA is engaging in business activity that supports Israeli settlements, contrary to the human rights commitments it recently affirmed.

The human rights organisation accused FIFA, a non-profit association registered in Switzerland, of “engaging in significant commercial activity with global professional football revenues estimated to be at $33 billion (R470bn) annually.

“Settlement football clubs provide part-time employment and recreational services to settlers, making the settlements more sustainable…” said HRW.

“The clubs provide services to Israelis, but do not and cannot provide them to West Bank Palestinians, who are not allowed to enter settlements except as labourers bearing special permits.”

1 Comment

  1. 1 nat cheiman 29 Nov
    Sexwale is an ANC member. His stance against Israel is well known. In fairness, ban Israel and the palestinians from competing


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