A UK-based rights group has slammed the FIFA president for participating in a “political activity” in the occupied al-Quds, denouncing his suggestion to hold the 2030 World Cup in Israel.
Gianni Infantino took part in the inauguration ceremony of “The Friedman Center for Peace through Strength” on October 11 and raised the possibility of holding the 2030 World Cup in Israel alongside Middle Eastern countries such as the United Arab Emirates to encourage normalization.
In an urgent letter to FIFA, the Arab Organization for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR UK) decried Infantino’s participation in the event which it described as “a political activity that has nothing to do with football” as “a grave mistake”.
AOHR UK added that the rules governing FIFA prohibit it from engaging in political affairs.
“As to the suggestion of holding the 2030 World Cup in Israel, it seems like the president of ‘FIFA’ neither sees nor hears about the crimes committed by Israel on a daily basis,” AOHR UK said.
The group noted that FIFA is “entrusted with organizing football tournaments according to the regulations and laws away from political quarrels, and it also has the duty to prevent governments from interfering in the affairs of local federations, so how could the president of the Federation support an occupying entity that has been oppressing and besieging a people for decades!”.
“The President of FIFA is aware that Israel is an occupying entity that commits many crimes, the foremost of which is settlement. He should have refrained from meeting with any government agencies or participating in political celebrations that would harm football and raise questions about mixing football with politics and supporting the perpetrators of serious crimes.”
Several rights groups have concluded that Israel is committing the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians.
Earlier this year, B’Tselem, an Israeli advocacy group, said Israel is an “apartheid regime” that systematically oppresses the Palestinians via military occupation and racist laws.
Israel occupied East al-Quds, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip — territories the Palestinians want for their future state — during the six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967. It later had to withdraw from Gaza.
About 700,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built in the West Bank and East al-Quds since then. The international community views the settlements as illegal under international law but has done little to pressure the Israeli regime to freeze or reverse its policies.
'UAE not interested in spreading peace'
AOHR UK also slammed the FIFA president for naming the UAE as a possible co-host of the World Cup, saying he “knows that the UAE, the sponsor of the Abraham Agreement, is not interested in spreading peace in the region, as evidenced by its crimes committed in Yemen and Libya, support for dictatorial regimes in the region, and its investments in Israeli settlements, which constitute a war crime, in addition to the suppression of freedom of opinion and expression at home, and the arrest of activists, opponents, women and men”.
The so-called Abraham Accords saw the United States facilitating normalization agreements between the occupying regime and a raft of regional countries, including the UAE.
The agreements sparked anger in the Middle East and elsewhere. Opponents have called them a “stab in the back” of Palestine and its cause of liberation from Israeli occupation and aggression.
AOHR UK pointed out that selecting the World Cup host is based on the best football project proposal and it has nothing to do with political issues.
“Rather, the country’s human rights record should play a major role in determining the winning” host, it said.
AOHR UK urged FIFA to open an urgent investigation into Infantino’s actions and to “apologize to the Palestinian people and the football community, and pledge to keep the football away from politics and work within the framework of respecting the basic principles of human rights”.