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Human Rights Watch Accuses FIFA of Supporting Israeli Settlements | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Players from Israeli football clubs affiliated with Israel
Football Association, Ariel Municipal Soccer Club and Maccabi HaSharon
Netanya, play against each other at Ariel Municipal’s training grounds
in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel. Amir Cohen / Reuters

Tel Aviv-Human Rights Watch has responded to the efforts exerted by Palestinians to draw condemnation to Israeli settlements. The organization issued a strongly-worded statement, in which it accused Israel of using occupied Palestinian lands unlawfully and to exploit them as sports clubs for settlers.

The organization has also accused FIFA of sponsoring matches that have taken place in those settlements, which were described as “stolen lands”. It has also urged the association to force Israeli football clubs on moving their activities to other places inside Israel.

Human Rights Watch, headquartered in New York, has revealed that six teams partaking in the Israeli Football League, have played in these settlements, which is considered illegal according to the international law.

Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine country director at Human Rights Watch, said that FIFA has distorted values of this game by allowing Israel to practice on stolen lands. Bashi has told AFP that Israeli clubs should abide by international law and move their matches to fields inside Israel.

From its part, the Israel Football Association (IFA) has expressed regret for mixing between sports and politics and said FIFA will soundly solve the matter.

FIFA has said that it will maintain its efforts to enhance friendly relations among its member associations according to its bylaws and by proposing suitable solutions for the sake of the game and all the concerned parties.

From the Palestinian side, Jibril Rajoub, head of Palestinian Football Association, told AFP that he requested the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and the European Union to intervene in this matter and hoped to receive the support of FIFA.

The Palestinian Football Association launched a campaign on May 2015 to suspend the membership of the Israeli Association in FIFA objecting the restrictions imposed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Palestinian athletes and on allowing settlers’ clubs to participate in football games.

Back then, FIFA formed a committee to discuss the issue. It will present a report on its findings during the meeting of FIFA’ executive committee on October 13-14, according to FIFA’s spokesperson, who revealed that progress has been made concerning the freedom of Palestinian players.