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Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association congratulates Argentina on canceling a friendly match with Israel, saying: “We hope that what happened will lead the Israeli side to draw several lessons”

Official PA TV Live  |
Official PA TV Live, press conference by Fatah Central Committee Secretary and Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub on the efforts that led to the Argentinian national team canceling its friendly football match with Israel in Jerusalem that was set for June 9, 2018

Fatah Central Committee Secretary and Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub at press conference with audience of journalists. Behind Rajoub are a Palestinian flag and the flag of the Palestinian Football Association, and next to the table is a poster with a picture of Rajoub standing with Argentinian football player Lionel Messi and below them the Argentinian and Palestinian flags.
Text on poster in English:
“From Palestine
thank you

Fatah Central Committee Secretary and Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub: “From the first day we made a decision and mobilized all of our forces and connections in the framework of the regulations of FIFA and the unions of which we are members. From the first day we decided that the handling of this matter would be disconnected from politics. The international community thinks that the issue of Jerusalem, with its two parts - the eastern and the western, will be resolved and its fate determined in the final stage of negotiations.
The second issue is connected to human rights, and the third issue is holding the match in territory that is outside the borders of the State of Israel that are recognized by the UN, and this is in contradiction of FIFA’s laws - both holding the match and any other sports activity. And in this spirit we launched our campaign and petitioned the Argentinian [Football] Association, the South American [Football] Association [CONMEBOL], FIFA, and all of the national unions. I say again: We acted only from a sports outlook, with an affinity to international legitimacy that has a clear position towards Jerusalem and human rights…
But now the sport is also a clear financial matter, and we used this in order to convince and speak with the Argentinian side: ‘What do you profit from this match?’ And in the end they were convinced and cancelled the match, even though they may suffer a material loss here and there, but the one who made the match political is the one who needs to pay the price. The Israeli side and the Israel [Football] Association’s agreement to be a pawn in the hands of [Israeli] Minister of [Culture and] Sports [Miri Regev] or [Israeli] Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] – I think that they will pay the price, and we say to the Argentinian national team: We wish you success, and hope to see you on the winners’ stage in the World Cup. And we also think that in this decision Argentina- one of the topics that we raised was the question of their hosting [the World Cup] in 2030. And we said in our petitions to the FIFA Council members that whoever agrees to politicizing sports is unworthy of hosting. But their brave decision, despite all of the pressures – we think that it makes them worthy of hosting in 2030… They certainly will be exposed to criticism from those who support the fascist right-wing that supports Israel. We of course hope that they will get it in 2030, and during the voting I think that we will vote for them…

When the match was planned to be in Haifa, we spoke with the Argentine [Football] Association and FIFA and we said: ‘Convince them to respect our right to develop our sport, without their [Israel’s] oppression and terror.’ But when the matter was transferred to Jerusalem, I think that the matter was determined in favor of our position, both in international society and in the Argentine [Football] Association…

We hope that what happened will lead the Israeli side to draw several lessons…

Let them not use sports as a tool for political goals, and not cross the lines of racism and fascism in the service of the occupation. Continuing to hold sports activities in the settlements, which are occupied Palestinian lands, contradicts the laws and human rights, and the international community’s decisions.”

Reporter: “(In Hebrew –Ed.) What is your message to Miri Regev today, and to Messi?”

Rajoub: “(In Hebrew –Ed.) …I think that Messi and the rest of the players in the Argentinian national team respected their message, their principles. I thank them, and I think that they acted according to their conscience. Messi would have been the first loser if the match would have taken place, so I also wish their national team success…”

Reporter: “(In English –Ed.) Do you see this move from Argentina as a victory for Palestine today?”

Rajoub: “(In English –Ed.) No I don’t think that this is a political victory. First of all it’s a sport achievement… For me as a Palestinian, you know, we are using sport to play football rather than to play politics. The fatal mistake of the Israelis is that they tried to use sport as a tool for political ends. And for this I think they failed. ”

Reporter: “(In Hebrew –Ed.) Is it [the cancellation of the match] connected to the fact that Israel transferred the match from Haifa to Jerusalem?”

Rajoub: “(In Hebrew –Ed.) …If the event was in Haifa, I don’t think that even legally speaking I could have convinced anyone…

(In Arabic –Ed.) The Argentine [Football] Association and the Argentinian state [don’t] work for the racist fascist occupation, which wanted to use Messi in order to whitewash its crimes against the Palestinians, or against Palestinian sports…

There is also the Eurovision next year [2019 in Jerusalem]… We also need to manage our campaign within the understanding that the world will respect us and support us if we address three fundamental things: international legitimacy, the world’s interests, and the world’s values.”

Jibril Rajoub also holds the following positions: Head of the PLO Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs, Chairman of the Palestine Olympic Committee, and Chairman of the Palestinian Scout Association (PSA).

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