Red card for FIFA as Palestinian cause reaches goal at World Cup

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A fan holds up a ‘Free Palestine’ scarf in the crowd after the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group D football match between Denmark and Tunisia at the Education City Stadium in Al-Rayyan, west of Doha on 22 November, 2022 (AFP)


On Wednesday at the Education City Stadium at Al-Rayan in Qatar, Tunisia beat defending champions France. As the jubilant Tunisian fans and supporters celebrated despite their failure to go to the second round, some commentators projected the victory as a colonised nation’s retaliation against the coloniser. Tunisia was a French colony from 1881 to 1956. During the seven decades of French occupation, the colonialists committed their usual crimes — murder, torture, and rape. The post-Arab-Spring Tunisian Parliament in 2020, however, decided not to pass a motion demanding a French apology. Let bygones be bygones, most lawmakers said opposing the motion presented by an Islamic party.

The Tunisian triumph generated vibes similar to those that reverberated across Asia after Japan’s war victory over Russia in 1905. 
Until Japan’s victory, Asians lacked the confidence to fight the militarily superior European colonialists. Japan’s victory gave the necessary tonic for freedom movements in Asia to continue the fight till freedom was achieved. 

Similarly, Tunisia’s first-ever international soccer victory over colonial power France sends a message to the Palestinians and other oppressed people that they are not children of a lesser god. In sports and other fields, the colonised are as capable as colonial powers. Hitching a wagon to the star is not exclusively reserved for only some people from some geographical locations or only for one ethnic group. There are no chosen people. 

With determination and dedication, any one of us can be the chosen person to conquer the farthest star.
Besides Tunisia’s victory tonic, the Palestinians are also receiving incredible support at world cup venues. At no international tournament, have the Palestinians seen so many people supporting their freedom cause. The Palestinian flags and symbols of freedom are conspicuous at world cup stadiums. This is in contrast to Qatar’s refusal to permit any display of banners or symbols supportive of LGBTQ rights on the basis that public endorsement of gay sex does not go with Qatar’s Islamic culture.

During the Tunisia-France match, a fan carrying the Palestinian flag stormed the pitch amid the roar of ‘Palestine, Palestine’ from spectators. Not only Tunisia’s matches, even Morocco’s match against Belgium saw fans carrying giant Palestinian flags and shouting the slogan “Freedom for Palestine.” The world cup venues were a microcosm of the public support in the Arab world for the Palestinian cause. The support is overwhelming despite Arab leaders’ genuflection to Israel through the so-called Abrahamic Accords which the United States has mediated. A recent poll by the Washington Institute showed that 80 percent of the Arab world people view the Abrahamic Accord as a negative development. 

The support for the Palestinian cause at the world cup venues came also from fans from Latin American countries such as Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina. Such a tsunami of support was indeed a red card for FIFA — the Federation of Internationale de Football Associations (FIFA), which is accused of being biased towards Israel. FIFA has rejected Palestinian appeals to de-recognize Israeli clubs in occupied Palestine. FIFA has also censured Arab international players such as former Egyptian captain Mohammed Aboutrika, for expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people. They were told not to mix politics with sports. But the same FIFA asked no questions when it joined the bandwagon of the Western nations in February this year and banned Russia’s national team and clubs from international tournaments in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. 
For argument’s sake, let’s say FIFA is right in penalising Russia, for world sports bodies have ostracised South Africa to pressurise the white supremacist regime to abandon its apartheid policy against the majority native people. 

But when policy becomes selective, it is sheer hypocrisy. There can’t be one rule for Russia and another for Israel. If a sport is not rules- and value-based, it is not a sport. Sport is held in high esteem for its spirit represents the noble principle of right is might. There is no space in sports for those who violate sporting principles or play foul. 
FIFA’s stand on the Palestinian issue is a slur on the spirit of football and an endorsement of Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian territories. FIFA should be reminded that the United Nations in 1960 adopted a resolution (No.1514) denouncing colonialism in all its manifestations, declaring that colonialism “constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights, is contrary to the UN Charter, and is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation.”

Lankan activists mark UN Solidarity Day with Palestine

While FIFA shuns fair play or fails to blow the whistle at Israel’s foul play, worldwide events were held on Tuesday, November 29 to mark the United Nations Day for Solidarity with the 
Palestinian People. 
In Colombo, too, global justice and anti-colonial activists gathered to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemn, in no unequivocal terms, Israel’s continuous occupation of the Palestinian territories and its 
colonial practices.
The event on the theme of “End Asia’s last colony: Justice for Palestine’ was organised by the Sri Lanka Committee for Solidarity with Palestine. November 29 has been declared by the UN as the International Day for Solidarity with Palestine following the General Assembly resolution 32/40B adopted on 
December 2, 1977. 

Why November 29? Because it was on that day in 1947, the UN General Assembly, passed Resolution 181 endorsing the division of historic Palestine to create the state of Israel, without obtaining the consent of the Palestinian people.  The resolution, passed by the General Assembly after the United States arm-twisted reluctant members such as the Philippines and Liberia, gave the 30 percent Jewish population 55 percent of the territory while the Palestinians who were 70 percent of the population got 45 percent of the territory.
Hence the day is also marked to commemorate one of the most shameful events in UN history, for Resolution 181 normalised colonialism, ethnic cleansing, and land theft. 
As peace-loving people, as global justice activists, and as victims of 450 years of colonial oppression, it is our moral duty to fight for and rise against injustice wherever it happens and be a voice for the Palestinian people until they achieve freedom. Otherwise, evil will thrive in the silence of the good people. 

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Disclaimer: Red card for FIFA as Palestinian cause reaches goal at World Cup - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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