Newspaper article International New York Times

Palestinians Drop Effort to Cut Israel from FIFA ; Compromise Deal Creates Panel to Help Improve Treatment of Teams

Newspaper article International New York Times

Palestinians Drop Effort to Cut Israel from FIFA ; Compromise Deal Creates Panel to Help Improve Treatment of Teams

Article excerpt

A last-minute deal would create a FIFA committee to monitor Israel's treatment of Palestinian teams and to deal with a contentious issue about teams from Israeli settlements in occupied territory.

The Palestinians dropped their bid to suspend Israel from international soccer competition at the last minute on Friday and agreed to instead form a committee of the sport's governing body, FIFA, to handle their complaints of racism and discrimination.

Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestine Football Association, called for a vote at FIFA's annual congress to ask the United Nations to determine whether five teams from settlements in the occupied West Bank should be allowed to continue to play in Israeli leagues. But FIFA's president, Sepp Blatter, blocked that initiative and said the new committee would also decide how to handle the question of the settlement teams.

In an emotional speech, Mr. Rajoub said he had been persuaded to abandon the demand to suspend Israel by fellow delegates to the FIFA congress, particularly one from South Africa, who said the vote would be "painful" for the conclave scarred by scandal after Wednesday's dawn arrest of top soccer executives. He accepted Mr. Blatter's proposal for a "peace match" between Israeli and Palestinian teams but also said it "does not mean I give up the resistance."

"I think it's time now to raise the red card for racism, humiliation and discrimination in Palestine and everywhere," Mr. Rajoub said from the podium, pulling an actual red card from his coat pocket.

He said the Palestinian situation was "even worse than what was in South Africa," which FIFA suspended from the 1960s until 1992. "There they wanted them to be slaves," Mr. Rajoub said, referring to South Africa during the apartheid era, adding, "But here in Palestine, they don't want us to be."

The FIFA campaign, part of a mounting Palestinian effort to press the case against Israeli occupation in international forums, garnered global attention and incited deep concern in Israel's soccer-obsessed society. Israel's Foreign Ministry sent diplomats to Zurich to join sports officials in a blitz to block the proposal, winning the support of European federations that made it all but impossible for Mr. …

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