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Daily Israel Report

Opinion: Soccer, Palestine, and Reality

The FIFA soccer league really embarks on a voyage of pure fantasy when declaring Palestine’s currency to be the Palestinian pound.
By David Singer
First Publish: 6/24/2010, 6:39 PM / Last Update: 6/24/2010, 6:17 PM

The World Cup presently being contested by 32 countries in South Africa has already achieved a certain amount of notoriety and controversy for the number of red cards and yellow cards handed out - or failed to be handed out - to offending players by referees whose interpretations of the rules continue to come under ever increasing scrutiny.

The referee’s decision is final - as Australia’s Harry Kewell found out - when sent off for a handball in the drawn game against Ghana.

Australia’s head of national teams John Boultbee explained:

"At the moment, there is no avenue for challenging a referee's decision apart from in cases of mistaken identity."

Perhaps FIFA needs to look at a real case of mistaken identity within its own ranks arising from its admission of the Palestinian Football Federation as a member of FIFA in 1988 in contravention of FIFA’s own governing articles.

.Article 10.1 of FIFA’s constitution provides:

"Any Association which is responsible for organising and supervising football in its country may become a Member of FIFA. In this context, the expression “country” shall refer to an independent state recognised by the international Community.”

Despite the most intensive and concerted diplomatic efforts conducted since 1993  - no country named “Palestine” has yet been created or recognized as an independent state or territorial entity.  The chances of this occurring are next to nothing.

Yet FIFA has created its own state of “Palestine” by denoting its:
  •  Area - as being 6326 square kilometers
  •  Main cities - as being Nablus, Jericho, Hebron, Gaza, Bethlehem and Ramallah
  •  Population -  as being 3.38 million
  •  Currency - as the Palestinian Pound
  •  Neighbouring countries - as being Egypt, Jordan and Israel
No map is provided to let the soccer fraternity or anyone else for that matter into FIFA’s creative geographic ingenuity. It is nothing but a figment of FIFA’s vivid imagination.

Based on the statement by FIFA that “Palestine” is a country located between Egypt, Jordan and Israel - one might conclude that in FIFA’s view “Palestine” is the area today called the West Bank and Gaza. The area approximates in size to that designated by FIFA and the main cities identified by FIFA could appear to confirm that view.

The issue becomes clouded however when one considers FIFA's claimed population of "Palestine". The 500,000 Jews living in the West Bank don’t seem to be included in FIFA's population statistic. One must wonder why there has been this deliberate exclusion. Does FIFA believe the West Bank should be Judenrein and that Jews don't count and are not to be counted in the population of "Palestine"?

FIFA really embarks on a voyage of pure fantasy when declaring Palestine’s currency to be the Palestinian pound.

There is no such currency. There once was - but it is defunct. You can see it in a museum-like Lucite case outside the Ramallah office of Jihad al-Wazir - described as “a central banker without a bank” - alongside coins from Alexander the Great.

What possessed FIFA to indulge in this political madness remains unexplained. Certainly an explanation is called for.

Perhaps FIFA would do well to heed the words of  the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Zuhair Mohsen who told the Dutch newspaper Trouw in 1977:

"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism."

"For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."

The creation of Mohsen’s Palestinian state still remains unfulfilled to this day - except in the view of FIFA.

If FIFA is looking for any statement more contemporary on the subject - it might like to consider the statement by Palestinian Arab journalist Khalid Amayreh who recently stated:

“… the Jordanian and Palestinian peoples are the two most homogeneous and closest Arab peoples, given their ethnic, cultural and religious commonality. We are actually one people, as Arab clans on both sides of the River Jordan have one common ancestry.

"This indisputable fact should debunk all the myths about any proclaimed intrinsic distinctiveness, let alone contradictions, between Jordanians and Palestinians.”

Has FIFA unintentionally been duped into creating a State that does not yet exist despite the current efforts of the Quartet - America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations - to bring it to fruition during the last seven years?

It is poor form for FIFA to not play by its own admission rules - yet expect World Cup players to abide by its playing rules.

Hopefully my appeal to FIFA will not be drowned out by the vuvuzelas presently making their presence felt at the World Cup tournament. Failure to correct the current situation or amend its Constitution should result in FIFA getting a red card..

Playing football - not politics - should be FIFA’s only focus.

David Singer is an Australian lawyer and convenor of Jordan is Palestine International, an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor states to the Mandate for Palestine.