Rajoub at Palestinian Football Association, Zurich, Switzerland
Rajoub at Palestinian Football Association, Zurich, SwitzerlandReuters

The international football association FIFA has opened an investigation against Palestinian Football Association head Jibril Rajoub, in response to a detailed complaint submitted by Palestinian Media Watch.

Last August, Rajoub was sentenced by FIFA to a year-long ban for inciting fans against Argentine superstar Lionel Messi. Rajoub had headed the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security Force until 2002, and was elected Secretary General of the Fatah Revolutionary Council Central Committee in 2017.

Arutz Sheva spoke to Palestinian Media Watch Director Itamar Marcus, who succeeded in causing the FIFA ethics committee to open the investigation against Rajoub by providing FIFA with evidence that Rajoub breached FIFA’s by-laws by promoting and glorifying terrorism; inciting hatred and violence; promoting racism; and preventing the use of the game of football in order to build a bridge for peace.

PMW filed the original complaint with FIFA in May 2017. It has just been made public that, in January 2019, FIFA did indeed open an investigation into Rajoub.

FIFA, as a rule, does not publicize its investigations. In his letter, FIFA Ethics Committee Investigation Chief Martin Nagoga asked Rajoub to respond to PMW’s complaint point-by-point, saying:

“The Chairperson of the Investigatory Chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee has opened these investigation proceedings after having determined that, on the basis of a document and relevant evidence submitted by the organization Palestinian Media Watch entitled “Kick Terror Out of Football”… there is prima facie evidence that you may have committed violations of the FCE [FIFA Ethics Code – E.d.], in your position as President of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) relating to the following:

  • Promotion and glorification of terrorism;
  • Incitement to hatred and violence;
  • Discriminatory/denigratory statements and prohibiting the use of football as a bridge for peace;
  • Declarations prohibiting contact with Israeli athletes and the use of sport for peace-building purposes;
  • Declarations containing discriminatory and denigratory language;
  • The use of football to promote a political agenda.

The letter informing Rajoub of the opening of the investigation reminded Rajoub of his duty to “assist and cooperate truthfully, fully and in good faith with the Ethics Committee” and required that he respond by the January 18, 2019.

Rajoub at Palestinian Football Association, Zurich, Switzerland
Rajoub at Palestinian Football Association, Zurich, SwitzerlandReuters

If Rajoub is found guilty of the breaches he has been accused of, he would face both heavy fines and a ban on taking part in any football-related activity for up to five years.

Commenting on the latest developments, Itamar Marcus, PMW’s director who authored the original report Kick Terror out of Football said: “I welcome FIFA’s decision to open an investigation into Jibril Rajoub’s conduct as Head of the Palestinian Football Association. It is demeaning for FIFA to allow a terror supporter who uses vile racist language to have any position attached to FIFA’s good name. Instead of using the beautiful game to build bridges and promote peace and co-existence, Rajoub uses his position to incite violence and to promote and glorify terror. I am hopeful that FIFA will now, once-and-for-all, permanently remove Rajoub from any position in FIFA, and cleanse this stain on international football.”

FIFA’s letter to Rajoub informing him of the opening of the investigation was leaked by a pro-Palestinian online media site. Ignoring the content of the complaint, the media site, echoing Rajoub’s attack, did not deal in any way with the unequivocal evidence provided by PMW, but instead attacked PMW director Itamar Marcus, who submitted the complaint to FIFA.

Responding to FIFA’s decision to fine and suspend him, Rajoub lashed out saying Palestinian Media Watch is “waging this war on all fronts” and called PMW's director "the Goebbels of the 21st century."

After submitting the original complaint, PMW turned to dozens of other organizations and individuals asking them to submit the same complaint, , including dozens of families of the victims of terror. PMW also followed up the complaint with a special report showing that while FIFA usually moved quickly and forcefully to punish all acts of discrimination and racism throughout world football, asking them to use the same standards with Rajoub’s violations that PMW documented.

For now, Rajoub has not publicized his response to FIFA’s investigatory Chamber.

Maurice Hirsch, head of legal strategies at PMW who worked with Itamar Marcus on the original complaint, adds: “Significantly, most of the evidence supplied by PMW is video evidence, including his promotion and glorification of terror, incitement of hatred, denigratory language, and his prohibiting contact with Israeli athletes and the use of sport for peace-building purposes. So he could not have denied any of PMW’s documentation. The fact that Rajoub leaked the letter now together with an attack on PMW may suggest that the proceedings are coming to their conclusion, with possibly another FIFA decision against Rajoub.”