Football in the shadow of occupation

This coming weekend the FIFA council is set to make a decision regarding the Palestinian FA’s complaint on the Israeli settlement teams. This is our report from the West Bank. By Håvard Melnæs Translated by Lars Johnsen Interpreter Hussein Abu Dweikh Photos Faiz Abu Rmeleh “It’s a bit chaotic here today because the president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, is coming to visit in a few hours. Everybody is running around like rabbits. Me too.” We’re on the football pitch in Ariel with Shay Bernthal, the head of Ironi Ariel Football Club. The first settlers arrived here in 1978, making Ariel among the oldest Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The West Bank is internationally recognised as part of Palestine, but since the “Six-Day War” in 1967 it has been occupied by Israel. For 50 years the 2,5 million inhabitants of the West Bank have lived under occupied rule. The UN Security Council have repeatedly stated that the settlements are illegal. A fact that has not slowed the Israeli authorities’ expansion policies. More than 550 000 Israelis live on illegal settlements, among them many members of the national assembly Knesset and cabinet ministers. The wall dividing the settlements from Palestinian towns and villages stretches 810 kilometres. When construction work began during the 2000s, the aim was to make sure that as many Israelis as possible lived inside and as many Palestinians as possible would be kept outside the wall. According to the UN, the wall is the main reason for the poverty the Palestinian people suffers. In 2011, the Palestinian FA (PFA) wrote an official complaint to FIFA demanding the Israeli FA-affiliated clubs cease their activity on occupied Palestinian land. One of the clubs included in the complaint is in Ariel. For years FIFA has avoided taking a position on the matter. But during the FIFA congress in Bahrain in May of this year, FIFA president Gianni Infantino promised a decision would...

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