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The New Arab

FIFA to review football matches in illegal Israeli settlements

FIFA has been urged to give a red card to Israeli settlement matches [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 October, 2016

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Human Rights Watch has urged FIFA to give a red card to Israeli settlement clubs that play on land illegally taken from Palestinians.
FIFA is to review its sponsorship of matches held in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Human Rights Watch called on FIFA to bar the Israeli Football Association from hosting matches on land unlawfully seized from Palestinians.

A FIFA council meeting on Thursday will review whether the IFA should move matches between settlement clubs inside Israel.

"The council should rule that if settlement teams want to maintain their FIFA affiliation they must relocate to Israel," said Minky Worden, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

FIFA's own rules prohibit a member association from holding competitions on the territory of another member association without permission.

A HRW report in September found six football clubs host their official home matches in settlements – land illegally taken from and off-limits to Palestinians.

The settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention governing the transfer of population to occupied territory.

HRW said that by allowing Israeli teams to play on Palestinian land, FIFA was engaging in business activity that supports those Israeli settlements.

Exacerbating the dispute is Israel blocking the West Bank's 2.5 million Palestinian residents, not counting East Jerusalem residents, from entering Israeli-only neighbourhoods, except for approximately 26,000 labourers with special permits to enter and exit at prescribed times under security supervision.

In a letter earlier this month to new FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the Palestine Football Association reiterated its objection to FIFA-sponsored matches in settlements.

Worden added the meeting in Switzerland was a chance for Infantino "to show FIFA's commitment to upholding human rights in its operations".

In a letter seen by the Guardian, senior United Nations official Wilfred Lemke wrote to FIFA to reiterate that Israeli settlements in occupied territory have "no legal validity" and are "in breach of international law".

"Such practices are an obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East," he added.

Infantino has previously said that resolving the dispute was a "priority".

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