By Al Qalam Reporter
South African tycoon Tokyo Sexwale, who heads FIFA’S Israel Palestine Monitoring Committee, has not yet responded to calls by groups of local activists demanding that he step down because of his delay in taking action against the Israel Football Association that continues to violate FIFA statues.
In a hard-hitting press statement last week, several South African faith-based organizations called on Sexwale to resign from FIFA.
In their call, they said: “FIFA has delayed in taking action against the Israel Football Association and its violation of FIFA statues. Instead of acting, FIFA has continuously delayed, and Sexwale is part of this delaying process. Sexwale and the FIFA Israel Palestine Monitoring Committee was meant to deliver justice, instead, it is delaying justice.”
The call was issued by a group of signatories including the South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP), the Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa and the Christian ecumenical group, Kairos Southern Africa. The statement is also backed by Benoni Spurs Football Club, various student groups and the National Coalition 4 Palestine (NC4P), an umbrella body of over 40 South African organizations.
“Palestinians have long been complaining to FIFA about Israeli attacks against Palestinian players including arrests and torture of Palestinian athletes, denial of freedom of movement, and bombing of their football stadiums. This is in addition to Israel’s routine (and still ongoing) disruption of Palestinian efforts to import necessary football equipment. Racism is rampant in Israeli football with Israel even having segregated youth leagues that separate Jewish players from non-Jewish players. Violent anti-Palestinian racism is common with Israeli clubs and fans notoriously chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’ at soccer matches.”
Meanwhile, another group of concerned activists and academics penned an “open letter” to Sexwale. Part of the letter reads: “Israel is using the settlement clubs outside its internationally recognised territory to further its claims to the Palestinian territory it has occupied since 1967.
“The settlement clubs violate FIFA’s well-established rule that a national football association cannot play matches on the territory of another association without its permission.”
In another section, the open letter reads: “Your appointment raised hopes worldwide that you, a former anti-apartheid activist and political prisoner, would address these matters with a firm sense for justice and fair play.
“But since then, we have been baffled and disappointed. You have avoided a clear stance and any tangible action on these issues and inexplicably delayed FIFA’s process time and again, allowing the football injustices to go on.
“Your appointment at FIFA was for one year. After the first year without significant progress, it was extended.
“Then you promised to issue a report with recommendations for action — first by October 2016 and then by January, until you finally tabled a draft only in March 2017. After you received comments from the two sides, you did not act on them in time ahead of the FIFA congress in May.
“At the congress, the president of FIFA said your final report still was not ready so no decision was taken and the process was extended yet again. As a result, more than two years after your appointment, the violations of Palestinian football rights continue as before.
“This summer, 10 players from the Rafah football club in the Gaza Strip were once again barred by Israeli authorities from going to the West Bank to play the final match of the Palestine Cup against a club from Hebron. You did not intervene at the time. Meanwhile, the settlement clubs continue playing in the Israeli football league with FIFA’S acceptance.
“Instead of recommending that FIFA decides against the participation of the settlement clubs in the Israeli league, just as in the Crimea case, your draft report merely proposed three options: allowing the status quo to continue, rectifying the situation without exactly specifying how or, just continuing the negotiations. This, after almost two years since your appointment.”
In conclusion, the signatories of the letter said: “Nelson Mandela, with whom you were imprisoned on the Robben Island, famously said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.
“Upholding Palestinian football rights can be a step towards their wider freedom. Delaying and blocking this step furthers their subjugation. Please remember your struggle against oppression and stand by FIFA’S rules.”
The signatories of the open letter are: Jonny Steinberg; Adam Hochschild; Zackie Achmat; Mazibuko Jara; Yolisa Pikie; Shuaib Manjra; Shaeera Kalla; Doron Isaacs; Steven Friedman; Selma Browde; Nurina Ally; Jeremy Phillips and Farid Esack.