Palestine leads calls for Israel to be shown the red card

Palestine leads calls for Israel to be shown the red card after security forces raided the headquarters of its offices in Gaza.

Palestine’s football federation has urged world federation FIFA to suspend Israel after a raid by military personnel on its offices in Gaza.

The demand came from Jibril Rajoub, president of both the Palestinian federation and the national Olympic committee. He said he was already concerned that Israeli authorities would prevent some players travelling to play in the Asian Cup finals in Australia in the new year.

A FIFA study group is currently assessing the extent – or lack – of progress since an initial suspension demand was put on ice following the creation of a Palestine/Israel liaison committee.

However tension was ramped up last week after the raid which prompted Rajoub’s outburst at the Asian confederation’s weekend gala events in Manila, Philippines.

Three armoured vehicles approached the PFF offices and security personnel entered the offices, questioned staff and checked documents. The action was attacked as “intolerable and unacceptable,” by the Bahraini president of the AFC, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.

Rajoub said: “I think it’s time to take sanctions. What happened last week had no precedence in the history of sport. I do not think the Israelis should have the right to enjoy the same status and the same time to deprive others … It is time FIFA showed Israel the red card.”

Palestine, recognised by FIFA in 1998, qualified this year for the Asian Cup for the first time by winning the AFC Challenge Cup and were thus hailed as Team of the Year by the AFC in Manila.

Rajoub feared that restrictions on the free movement of athletes imposed by Israel would prevent Palestine sending their strongest team to their first appearance in the finals of a major international competition.

He said: “I hope we can take everyone with us though we have no choice over what happens. Even when we played the Challenge Cup, six players were prevented. Still, we are determined to go ahead with our plans whether the Israelis allow everyone to travel or not.”

Rajoub’s reiteration of his earlier pleas for international football action against Israel feeds into wider politically-inspired tensions in the region.

Earlier this autumn the Jewish Chronicle reported that senior Israeli figures had launched a campaign, drawing on international support, against the 2022 World Cup hosting in Qatar.

The Tel-Aviv government has criticised Qatar as a backer of Hamas which controls Gaza. The claim has been denied by Qatar.

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