Column about ball and the world: anti-semitism, so what?

Palestinian soccer clubs want to have Jewish "settler clubs" thrown out of FIFA. But the federation abstains.

Palestinians demonstrated against "settler clubs" in the West Bank as early as 2015 Photo: imago/ZUMA Press

The football-political news, which this column is always about, is not one this time. The world-famous world football association, which is so fond of putting up billboards that say "No Racism," has decided not to decide. The Palestinian Football Association’s (PFA) motion to expel its neighbor from Israel (IFA) is not on the agenda at the Fifa Congress.

This may be regretted by soccer observers who believe that the expulsion of Israel is a good thing, that it serves the fight against racism. Surprisingly, however, the closer idea that the exclusion of the Jewish state’s soccer players from worldwide play would be anti-Semitic, a discrimination pointing in the direction of racism, is hardly encountered.

Foamy. Six Israeli soccer clubs, which even in the language of news agencies are often referred to as "settler clubs," play in the Israeli league, although strictly speaking they are located on the territory of the Palestinian Authority, from which a Palestinian republic is to emerge at some point in the future. They are clubs formed in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The PFA’s request refers to the passage in Fifa’s statutes that clubs may only play on the territory of another federation if "the latter has given its consent".

Now, clubs that play in a "foreign" league are not that rare: Liechtenstein has seven soccer clubs, but the best one, FC Vaduz, kicks in Switzerland. The Northern Ireland Football Association is even bigger, but Derry City scores its goals in the Republic of Ireland’s Premier League. And just this week, AS Monaco was eliminated from the Champions League – a club from the principality but playing for the French Republic.

Well, you could say, there is probably a consent of the federation in each case. But has the PFA ever signaled in any way that it will offer clubs such as Beitar Ironi or Hapoel Oranit the choice of playing in the IFA with their consent or registering the teams in the PFA’s leagues? No, on the contrary. Only last week, 170 Palestinian soccer clubs appealed to Fifa to finally kick Israel out, because these are "Palestinian soccer rights. So it is supposed to be a human right not to see footballers from the – rightly very controversial – settlements running across Israeli soccer pitches? So it is a human right that such people are not allowed to play sports?

This is not, as would be legitimate, a demand for one’s own rights. Rather, the right to play soccer is explicitly denied to others. The demand to kick out the "settler clubs" sees itself as part of a larger boycott movement against Israel. It is indeed about exclusion, about discrimination, about something that could, indeed must, be called racism by another term – namely, against Jewish soccer players. And it is really only very, very little exaggeration to state that the initiators of this motion are ultimately concerned that Jews should not be allowed to play sports.

The Palestinian clubs are appealing to Fifa’s "reputation as a champion of human rights," according to their letter. This grandiose champion has now decided not to decide for the time being. That’s finally a clear message that everyone understands: Fifa simply does not feel competent in matters of combating racism, anti-Semitism and other discrimination.