Palestinian Football Association president prevented from accompanying team to Australia

June 13, 2024
Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestinian Football Association, was denied a visa to Australia. Photo: FIFA

In a violation of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) sporting norms, Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestinian Football Association, was at the last minute refused a visa to accompany the Palestinian national team, which was playing against the Socceroos on June 11 in Boorloo/Perth.

The Palestinian Football Association did not have the time to find a solution and FIFA officials’ offer to mediate was not accepted.

Rajoub did not even have time to allocate someone else to lead the Palestinian team in the World Cup qualifier match.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had nothing to do with Rajoub’s visa application rejection, adding there are “a bunch of reasons why this happens”.

The decision to refuse Rajoub’s visa has been passed off on “technical reasons”. But, as it transpires, the decision was political.

Rajou told Ultra Palestine, Australian authorities had told him it was “because I was a former prisoner and a member of a ‘terrorist organisation’”.

“The truth is that my entry was prevented under Israeli pressure, as I had previously entered Australia twice,” he said.

Rajoub is Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and a former security commander who holds the rank of lieutenant general. He has been outspoken against Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip.

As he told MBC Egypt last November 23: “What happened on October 7 did not come out of nowhere”. It is a “continuation of the crimes of this occupation”.

He told Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper last November 23 that “Hamas was and will remain a part of the Palestinian … political fabric” and “achieving Palestinian national unity” and an “independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty over all Palestinian lands” is the goal.

Rajoub told FIFA in mid-May that the qualifying match was an important event for Palestine. He said Israel is systematically violating FIFA’s goals, including in its Israeli Football Association’s national league of clubs which includes people from the “illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories”.

“The numerous committees to address these issues either failed to provide effective decisions, or did not submit their reports to the conference that assigned them,” Rajoub said.

Rajoub said that 282 athletes, 193 of whom were football players, have been killed since October 7.

Israel’s bombing campaign has destroyed more than 55 sports facilities, including 45 football facilities — 38 in Gaza and 7 in the West Bank. Eleven athletes from the West Bank have been arrested.

He said the Israeli Federation has violated FIFA’s regulations and laws a number of times including “organising the league in the territories of the Palestinian state”.

“We are unable to organise a league or even host World Cup qualifiers on our soil,” Rajoub said.

Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, President of the Asian Football Confederation, of which Football Australia is a part, has expressed his support for the Palestinian Federation’s proposal.

Rajoub has strongly objected to Israel’s continued participation in World Cup qualifiers, saying it has systematically violated FIFA’s objectives.

He said the Israeli Federation had violated FIFA’s rules and called on FIFA to not “remain indifferent to these violations or to the ongoing genocide in Gaza”.

FIFA postponed a vote in May on the Palestinian Federation proposal to temporarily suspend Israel’s membership due to its war on Gaza.

It has until July 20 to seek legal advice on freezing Israel’s membership.

The Israeli Football Association said the Palestinian Federation demands are a “malicious attempt” to “harm Israeli football”.

Shino Moshe Zuares, head of the Israel Football Association, said it “has never violated the rules set by UEFA or FIFA and will never do so in the future”.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz described Rajoub on X as a “convicted terrorist”, who “praised the Hamas massacre on October 7 and called for a similar massacre in Judea and Samaria”.

He is “not fit to attend international soccer matches — he should stay in the district and play wall football instead,” Katz said.

Dozens of Zionists in Israel and in the West have praised Australia’s decision not to give him a visa.

Rajoub told the ABC, from Ramallah in the West Bank, that he believed there was “some kind of Israeli influence on this decision”.

“I think this is a political decision, and this is a shame for those who made such a decision ... I must attend the match, I must be with our team.”

Rajoub has visited Australia twice, in 2008 and 2015. He said being denied a visa this time was a “stupid and ridiculous decision”.

Football Australia’s national governing body said it was up to the government to address the visa question, and that it “welcomes the Palestinian men’s national team”.

Middle East Monitor said on June 10 that the Australian government was “playing a blame game”.

It pointed to the government’s cancellation of the entry visas, in March, for Palestinians fleeing Gaza and that the “Albanese government has faced intense criticism for its stand on Palestine, with calls on Canberra to end arms supplies to Israel”.

Inside World Football said “whatever [the visa denial] is based on it is not a good look for Australia or its attempts to woo the world’s major sports events, including football”.

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