Sat 13-April-2024

Genocide in Gaza – Western Hypocrisy and FIFA’s Double Standards

Tuesday 2-April-2024

In the same way that many others are concerned and outraged about the ongoing genocide in Gaza, I was listening to an Israeli official on MSNBC talking about “the massacre of October 7, and the war in Gaza.”

For the ethnic cleansing of Palestine to be justified by Israel and its supporters, the Israeli narrative of the ‘war between Israel and Hamas’, and not Israel’s genocide on Gaza, must be accepted by the world.

However, many international law experts stated that what is taking place in Gaza is genocide. And indeed, there is no need to be an international law professor to realize that this is the case.

The statements we hear from extremist Israeli leaders are chilling, sometimes difficult to believe. What is happening in Gaza has impacts on the world’s consciousness, especially among the young generation.

Center of Gravity
Genocide is to annihilate a people physically and morally, to erase people’s hopes and dreams.

Along with the massive devastation in Gaza, the Israeli army has systematically killed Palestinian athletes, sports journalists and administrators, as well as destroyed the sports infrastructure.

A large number of sports clubs have a rich history that goes back many decades and generations.

In this regard, Hilary Morgan Leatham wrote in Al-Jazeera: “Destroying Gaza’s heritage has far reaching social, political, and emotional ramifications. It is a concerted attack on the existence of Palestine and its people.”

Sports is not a marginal component in Gaza’s society. There was a time when Gaza was the center of gravity for Palestinian sports.

Several of its athletes and teams competed regionally and internationally. Sports in Gaza became a part of young people’s lifestyle, a tradition that has been followed since the 1950s.

Throughout the years, it was also through sports that Palestinians in Gaza have been able to relieve the pain of living under occupation and siege.

Even now, in the midst of relentless bombing and starvation, I was fascinated to see young men performing acrobatic exercises on the beach. As part of a growing urban fitness discipline known as street workouts, four men were performing gravity-defying strength feats.

It was not only acrobatic movements, but an expression of the rejection of the occupation as well. It was a rebellion against oppression and injustice and a fight for freedom.

Double Standards
Following the beginning of the war and in view of the Israeli atrocities in the Strip, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and Citizens International have teamed up with 60 organizations to demand FIFA ban Israeli teams.

Just recently, an open letter was sent to FIFA asking it to suspend Israel as it did with Russia following Ukraine’s military operation in 2022. According to UEFA, there are no plans to sanction Israel because it is a different case.

In a letter to FIFA, the Palestine Football Association (PFA) demanded that Congress, which will take place in May, consider “appropriate” sanctions against the Israeli Football Association (IFA) and its clubs for “unprecedented international human rights and humanitarian law violations” in the war on Gaza.

FIFA’s position, however, is no different from that in the West in general.

Although the West preaches democracy and human rights, it acts in a way that violates them. It is hypocritical, especially when it comes to US and Europe’s relations with Israel.

In general, double standards refer to a discriminatory behavior that arises when one group is treated differently from the other.

For example, the West continues to treat the Ukrainian issue as a human issue, while ignoring the long-standing Palestinian suffering. It is as if a “civilized” Western nation, Ukraine, has more privileges than the “backward” Arab and Middle Eastern nations.

In the past, FIFA used its influence to pressure Iran to allow women to watch men’s soccer matches. It aso sanctioned Russia for its Ukraine’s invasion but failed to sanction Israel for its genocide.

Despite the genocide unfolding in Gaza, FIFA has continued to satisfy Israel’s demands, abandoning the principles laid down in its statutes, and sacrificing its own values and integrity for the sake of political expediency.

–Issam Khalidi is an independent scholar, is the author of History of Sports in Palestine 1900-1948 (in Arabic), One Hundred Years of Football in Palestine (in Arabic and English), co-edited Soccer in the Middle East, as well as articles and essays on the subject of sports included at www.hpalestinesports.net. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

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