Occupied: Headlines From Palestine

Blogging From Gaza, Palestine

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Israeli Occupation Court Orders Demolition Of Palestinian Football Field -Sports Under Occupation

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — An Israeli court has ruled to demolish a football field and its facilities in occupied East Jerusalem, a local committee said Thursday.The owners of the property, located in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, received a demolition order in the mail over 70 days after the court had passed the ruling at the beginning of June, the Wadi Hilweh Information Center said.The “demolition and removal” order had allowed for an appeal to be lodged within 30 days of the ruling.The ruling includes the demolition of a 1.5 dunam sports field as well as a neighboring warehouse and animal shed.Silwan committee member Ahmad Qaraeen said the ruling required that anyone who chose to object to the order would be fined and forced to pay demolition and removal fees. He added that Israeli authorities are aware that the owners of the land — the heirs to Atallah Siyam — regularly allowed the area to be used by Mada Creative center for activities. Qareen said that the Israeli municipality attempted to confiscate the land in 2007 and turn it into a parking lot, but that the move was appealed in court and the land owners built a football field on the property in 2009 after receiving approval from the central court. In 2012, the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority demolished several of the family’s facilities under the pretense of “removing trash,” he added.Silwan is one of many Palestinian neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem that is seeing an influx of Israeli settlers at the cost of the demolition of Palestinian homes and eviction of Palestinian families.Israeli authorities have carried out around 370 demolitions of Palestinian property in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the start of 2015, displacing an estimated 432 residents, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.Thousands of Palestinian residents are at risk of losing their homes, as members of the current right-wing Israeli government continue to champion longstanding policies to obtain a Jewish majority in East Jerusalem.East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in 1967 in a move never recognized by the international community, and four decades of Israeli policy in the area have neglected the Palestinian community while fostering the growth of Jewish settlement.

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Palestine Football Association Denies Voting For Blatter

GAZA CITY – The Palestinian Football Association on Saturday denied reports that its head, Jibril Rajoub, had voted for Sepp Blatter in the election of the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) on Friday.

It said in a statement that Rajoub had officially announced his backing of Blatter’s rival in the election, Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein, the head of the Jordanian Football Association.

“Rajoub proved this backing by voting for al-Hussein,” the association said.

It underlined the depth of relations between the Palestinian and Jordanian peoples, lashing out at what it described as campaigns aiming at sowing tension between Jordanians and Palestinians.

On Friday, Blatter was re-elected FIFA President amid corruption charges at the top of football’s world governing body.

The 79-year-old Swiss competed against al-Hussein, 39 and FIFA vice-president, in the presidential election at the 65th FIFA Congress held in Zurich, Switzerland.

Al-Hussein received 73 votes, while Blatter received 133 votes in the first round.

With neither candidate achieving a two-thirds majority, the election was to go into a second round. However, al-Hussein announced his withdrawal before the second round began, giving Blatter his fifth election victory as FIFA President.

Blatter, at the helm of FIFA for 17 years, will preside over the organization for four more years.

– See more at: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/palestine-football-association-denies-voting-blatter-1463081327#sthash.TTwxWKGA.dpuf

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Palestinians Refuse To Back Down On Israel FIFA Vote

ZURICH (AFP) — Palestine’s football chief on Wednesday continued his refusal to back down on a threatened vote to suspend Israel from football’s governing body after talks with increasingly desperate FIFA president Sepp Blatter.”Nothing has changed, the vote is still on the agenda,” Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub told AFP after the meeting with Blatter and as the countdown to Friday’s vote gathered pace.

“The meeting lasted about one hour, there were no results,” Rajoub said.Palestine, which has been a FIFA member since 1998, wants the governing body to suspend Israel over its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players, and opposes the participation in the Israeli championships of five clubs located in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, illegal under international law.

The vote is scheduled for Friday and needs a simple majority of over 50% of the 209 members to succeed.Blatter has been lobbying furiously to try to avoid the vote, travelling to the Middle East last week to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Mahmoud Abbas.Blatter strongly opposes the vote saying it brings politics into football and that Israel has not breached FIFA’s statutes.Israel Football Association President Ofer Eini was not in Wednesday’s meeting and his delegation did not say whether contacts with Blatter or Rajoub were planned.Arab delegations at a Confederation of African Football meeting walked out when Eini addressed the confederation in a Zurich hotel.Rajoub said he opposed the protest and the Arab delegations should have stayed.

Players a ‘security question’

Blatter’s main talks have been with Rajoub and Israel Football Association President Ofer Eini who says restrictions on Palestinian players are a security question.Eini appealed to UEFA president Michel Platini to speak against the Palestinian bid last week.”IFA is facing one of its most crucial situations since it was established in the year 1928, finding ourselves in the need to defend ourselves against a proposal which is totally political and has nothing to do with the objectives of FIFA and the spirit of football,” Eini wrote.While Eini fights for the separation of politics and football, the routine restrictions placed on Palestinian players by Israeli authorities under the pretext of security has long hindered the Palestinian National Football team’s abilities to play.Including rare instances for holding home games, players residing in the Gaza Strip are generally barred from traveling to the West Bank for practices, and others at times detained during football-related travel. Players have reported that shipments of sports equipment are often delayed at Israeli checkpoints, sometimes never making it onto the field.Member of the Palestinian National Football team Roberto Kettlun told Ma’an that restrictions on movement and racism against players are among the most pressing constraints facing him and his team members.The national team itself includes several who previously lived outside of occupied Palestine. Due to restrictions and difficulties in obtaining exit visas from Israel for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, players are often drawn from Palestinian diaspora to play for the national team.”I think for tomorrow we have a good chance to do something important…we hope FIFA will stick to their own statues and act according the international resolution passed by the UN in 1967, where it says clearly the territories which belong to the Palestinian Authority,” Kettlun told Ma’an, referring to the participation of teams from illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.Israel has faced international criticism for its policies in regards to PNF players previously, including a widespread boycott of a 2013 championship held in Israel, campaigned by the movement Red Card Israeli Racism and petitioned by human rights leaders such as Desmond Tutu.

UEFA President Michel Platini ignored the boycott however, and the championships were held anyway in June 2013.Despite difficulty, the national team has managed to play worldwide, most recently in the Asia Cup in 2014.The FIFA bid to take place Friday is one of several moves by Palestinian bodies to confront violations committed in ongoing Israeli occupation via international bodies.”Our requests are clear, just and fair: Freedom of movement, end of racism and expulsion of all teams from illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine competing in the Israeli league,” Rajoub said in statement Tuesday.Ma’an staff contributed to this report.

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Israeli Occupation Detains Palestine National Team At Border..Again. #FIFA #RedCard Israel

Vice News

Palestinian National Team player Sameh Maraabah was detained for approximately three hours at the Allenby crossing point by the Israeli border patrol for “security reasons,” according to multiple sources familiar with the matter, before being released at approximately 11 p.m. local time. The Allenby crossing point is the only international border for Palestinians living in the West Bank. The team was on its way to Jordan where they would stay the night before flying to Tunisia for training. Palestine is scheduled to play Saudi Arabia on June 11.

This incident comes mere hours after FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s visit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in advance of a resolution at next week’s FIFA Congress to suspend Israel for, among other allegations, restricting Palestinian player movement.

Two days prior, Blatter met with Netanyahu and assured the press he “remain[s] confident that we will find a solution for the benefit of football development ahead of the FIFA Congress.” According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, Blatter informed the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) that Netanyahu promised to ease travel restrictions for Palestinian players and officials, and one source tells VICE Sports that Netanyahu offered everything except for the disbanding of the five settlement teams playing in the Israeli leagues.

Multiple sources confirmed to VICE Sports that PFA President Jibril Rajoub turned down the offer and insisted the resolution go to vote at next week’s FIFA Congress. Maraabah’s detention late Thursday night only reinforces that decision, and, in the eyes of the PFA, undermines Netanyahu’s proposed compromise.

Sameh Maraabah (left). Image via WikiMedia Commons

Israeli-Arab Knesset member Esawi Frej, who belongs to the leftist Meretz party and has served as an intermediary between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority, told VICE Sports: “I am happy that the Israeli authorities made the right decision and let the mind decide, not the heart, to let the international Palestinian team continue on their journey to Jordan. I call on both Palestinians and Israelis in this time to use wisdom and let the sports win, not politics.”

Esawi Frej. Image courtesy of Esawi Frej

This is not the first time Maraabah has been held by Israeli border forces. Maraabah was detained in April of 2014 under suspicion of being a “military activist” after allegedly meeting with members of Hamas’s military wing in Qatar.

According to a Palestinian Football Association spokesman, the PFA has already sent a letter to Blatter informing him of the incident. The letter, obtained by VICE Sports, is re-printed here in full:

Dear President,

Dear Brother

I hope you had the time to rest after your trip to our region and the busy schedule of meetings with both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Israeli Government’s promise to facilitate the movement of our players is having its first test as I am writing this letter. Our National team, which is heading for Tunisia for a training camp, has been delayed at the Allenby crossing point by the Israeli authorities.

Player Sameh Maraabah has been detained by the Israeli authorities for two hours now, and the team has decided it will not leave without him.

The implications of this incident can only confirm the PFA’s position on the promises given by the Israeli Government; that they are only words unless they are included in solution that can only come through, and be guaranteed by the FIFA congress.

Sincerely Yours

Jibril Rajoub


Palestine Football Association

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Palestine To Press For FIFA Ban On Israel

JERUSALEM (AFP) — The Palestinian Football Association vowed Sunday to push ahead with efforts to have Israel suspended from FIFA following joint talks with the world football body’s president Sepp Blatter in Zurich.

But both sides agreed to continue talking with Blatter, who announced plans to visit the region for top-level talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas on the issue ahead of the upcoming FIFA Congress, in Zurich on May 29.

News of the visit was announced by Blatter on Sunday as he met with Israel Football Association chief Ofer Eini and his Palestinian counterpart Jibril Rajoub.FIFA said the main purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Palestinian FA’s request to suspend their Israeli counterparts at the upcoming FIFA congress which starts on May 28.But the Palestinians said there had been no progress at the meeting, adding they would not be deterred from efforts to have Israel suspended.

“It is clear that the Israeli Football Association is not willing to recognize the PFA as a federation with equal rights and obligations, just as they continue to violate their commitments made before FIFA,” Rajoub said in a statement.”We are therefore determined to continue our path to suspend the Israeli Football Association during the next FIFA Congress.”

Palestine, which has been a member of FIFA since 1998, is currently pressuring world football’s governing body to bar Israel from international competition over its restrictions on the movement of Palestinian players.It is also protesting the participation in the Israeli national championships of five clubs located in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The clubs play in the third and fourth divisions.The Palestinians want the matter put to a vote at the annual FIFA Congress where it will only pass if it gets the support three-quarters of the 209 member federations. In a statement, the IFA said the parties discussed “various possibilities for cancelling the Palestinian request to hold a vote on Israel’s suspension at the upcoming congress,” with Eini saying he was “a little more optimistic” after the talks.

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Israeli Football Club Ordered To Retract Racist Ban On Arab (And Palestinian) Players

Beitar soccer club ordered to retract coach’s ban on Arab players

Coach Guy Levi said Arab players would ‘create unnecessary tension’ in team.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission has demanded that the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team retract statements the team’s coach made against Arab players joining the team. In a letter this week to the team’s owner, Eli Tabib, National Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Tziona Koenig-Yair spoke out against remarks made by Beitar coach Guy Levi on Radio 102.

Levi said: “It doesn’t matter that this is the right time; it would create tension and cause much greater damage. I won’t find any player from the Arab sector who would want to. Even if there was a player who suited me professionally, I wouldn’t bring him, because it would create unnecessary tension.”

Levi’s remarks constituted “suspicion of racism in contravention of the law prohibiting discrimination based on nationality, among other things in acceptance to employment,” Koenig-Yair wrote.

The commissioner also noted that after the last time the commission approached Beitar Jerusalem, following similar remarks two years ago by its coach at the time, Haim Revivo, the soccer club called a press conference in which it called on its fans to fight racism and stated that if a suitable Arab player is found, he would be hired for the team. Yet Beitar Jerusalem remains the only top-tier soccer team in Israel never to have fielded an Arab player.

“The remarks of the current coach show that the ways of the team go completely against its declaration at that press conference and that ostensibly it maintains a policy of discrimination in a context of nationality and religion,” Koenig-Yair wrote.

The letter from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission to Beitar followed a letter to the commission from the Coalition Against Racism in Israel, an umbrella group of Jewish and Arab organizations. The commission wrote that because of the attention in the media to the Beitar coach’s remarks, “it is of the greatest importance that the club be judged to the full extent of the law, because refraining from doing so could turn a statement and policy of this type into the norm in Israel.”


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Palestine Football Team the Best in Asia for 2014

MANILA, November 30, 2014 (WAFA) – The Palestinian national football team was on Sunday awarded the Best National Team prize in Asia for the year 2014.

The honoring ceremony came on the sideline of the FIFA 60th anniversary celebrations that were held in the Pilipino capital, Manila.

Head of the Palestine Football Federation, Jibril Rajoub, received the prize after Palestine won the Challenge Cup over North Korea’s Football Team for Juniors and Qatar National Team for Youth. The Palestinian national team also qualified for AFC Asian Cup for the first time in history.

The ceremony was attended by President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, as well as other international football figures.


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FIFA President : Israeli Occupation Army’s Attack On Palestinian Football Federation Unacceptable

JERUSALEM, November 24, 2014 (WAFA) – President of the FIFA Sepp Blatter said on Monday that the Israeli army’s raiding and searching of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) headquarters in Jerusalem is intolerable and unacceptable.

Earlier on Monday, an Israeli army force broke into the PFA’s headquarters located in the town of ar-Ram, north of Jerusalem, searched it and assaulted its employees.

Blatter subsequently sent a letter of condemnation to PFA’s President, Jibril Rajoub, condemning the Israeli attack and describing it as ‘terrible’.

In the meantime, Rajoub said the assault was an attempt to undermine Palestinian sports and called for international condemnation of the incident.


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Israeli Occupation Forces Raid Palestinian Football Association HQ

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Monday morning raided the headquarters of the Palestinian Football association in al-Ram near Jerusalem.

A statement from the PFA said three Israeli military jeeps raided the headquarters at 9:20 a.m. on Monday and apprehended the IDs of several of its employees, prevented them from entering it, and interrogated them.

They also searched the ground floor of the building, the statement said.

Israeli forces spent 40 minutes searching the building and remained around 90 minutes in its vicinity afterwards.

The statement added that Susan Shalabi, the head of the PFA, asked an officer about the reason of the raid, and informed him that it was an institute related to the Federal International Football Association and should not be raided by an armed group, to which the officer responded that it was not a raid.

The statement explained that a number of journalists who were present in the area documented the raid. Before Israeli forces left the place they tried to prevent journalists from taking pictures.



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Israeli Occupation Football Body to Discipline Only Palestinian Team Playing in Israel

JERUSALEM (AFP) — The Israel Football Association said Monday it is to take disciplinary measures against an Arab club in the Premier League over a tribute it paid to a fugitive former MP.

The IFA said it had “decided to take disciplinary action against Bnei Sakhnin” after the club paid tribute to those who had helped secure a Qatari donation to build its home ground, Doha Stadium.

Bnei Sakhnin is the Premier League’s only Arab-Israeli club and its state-of-the-art football stadium and sports complex was built with millions of dollars in donations from Qatar in 2005.

Among those honored at the ceremony, which took place before a match against HaPoel Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, was Azmi Bishara, a former MP who fled Israel in 2007 after being accused of collaborating with Lebanon’s Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Bishara, who comes from the northern Arab city of Nazareth and now lives in Qatar, has repeatedly denied the allegations which accused him of advising Hezbollah during its 34-day war with Israel in 2006.

The ceremony triggered a furious response from several Israeli cabinet ministers who called for the team to be punished.

Premier League chief Oren Hasson also wrote a letter of complaint to the IFA, a copy of which was seen by AFP, saying the club had failed to inform the league about the nature of the ceremony.

The IFA said the club had violated two of its regulations, and was guilty of “unbecoming conduct” and of taking a stance, while on the pitch, on disputed political and public issues.

The allegations will be examined at a hearing on Wednesday, the association said in a statement.

Disciplinary offences can result in measures ranging from a warning to a monetary fine, losing points or even demotion from the league, IFA regulations state.

There was no immediate response from the club.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, known for his virulent anti-Arab diatribes and who, in 2006, called for Bishara to face the death penalty over the Hezbollah allegations, lashed out at the club.

“When a football team in the Israeli league thanks Azmi Bishara, who is suspected of spying and aiding Hezbollah … strong measures should be taken against it,” he wrote on Facebook.

Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat also slammed the tribute as “crossing a red line,” saying the IFA should take “strict measures against the team,” the top-selling Yedioth Aharonoth reported on Sunday.

But Bnei Sakhnin chairman Mohammed Abu Yunes played down the incident.

“A big fuss is being made out of nothing,” he told the paper.

“We just wanted to thank the people who helped us raise money to support the team. What do they want from us? The establishment doesn’t give us money so why shouldn’t we raise money overseas?”