This isn’t like most articles concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict per say, but I’m particularly interested in the occasions that sport, particularly football, is affected by real world conflicts (in fact, my thesis is on this general topic). This article details the violent attacks experienced by two Palestinian youth soccer players that were shot repeatedly in the foot and mauled by dogs at a checkpoint, effectively ending their careers. According to the article’s author, Dave Zirin, this isn’t the first of such attacks on Palestinian players.
While attacks on footballers is sometimes trivialized as fan violence, it is rarely taken to this extent and almost never by state officials. What’s more, the Palestinian national football team, for a people without an official state, is invaluable to the peoples’ sense of identity (it would actually be really interesting to investigate how they were given the ability to form a team by FIFA in the absence of an official state). After the recent violence n their team, the Palestinian Football Association’s chairman, Jibril al-Rajoub, demanded “the expulsion of Israel from FIFA and the International Olympic Committee,” adding that several nations, including Jordan, Qatar, and Iran, supported this ban.
FIFA, in its own way, has tried to play a part in peacekeeping, seeking to mediate a committee of both sides’ authorities to make passage across the security checkpoints easier, but the governing body has found both sides at a standoff. Al-Rajoub said, “this is the way the Israelis are behaving and I see no sign that they have recharged their mental batteries.” FIFA, while being an international governing body, is in these cases often cautious to make direct recommendations to states concerning policy, preferring to stay within the realm of sports. I guess my question would be whether mediating direct violence such as this is even with FIFA’s jurisdiction and at what point organizations such as the UN should get involved.
In general, getting the Israelis and Palestinians to come to the negotiating table has not been successful, with John Kerry telling the American Jewish Committee that “we’re running out of time. We’re running out of possibilities.” The violence enacted upon Palestinian footballers is surely only one symptom of this conflict. What good can the governing body of a sport do in a peacekeeping situation that is decades old? What obligation do they have?