Red Card Israeli Racism

Red Card Israeli Racism Campaign;  Red Card Israeli Racism

Outline, 13 July 2015 

Football boycott of Israel is particularly powerful because it hits straight at the heart of the government’s strategy to present Israel as a normal European state.  It’s not so important that Israel does not figure very prominently in international competitions.  What counts to the Israeli government is that the Israeli flag is seen in FIFA (World football Association) and UEFA (European Football Association) events and listings and that Israel hosts international competitions.  If Israeli teams can be seen playing on European grounds, or if European teams play in Israel, all the better for Israel.

Football has an emotional dimension.  Not only is the sport popular across the Israeli population, but it also fosters a sense of national identity.  So a football boycott will, arguably, make a stronger and wider impact amongst Israeli football supporters than commercial boycott or even cultural boycott.  This will feed through to government.

The Red Card Israeli Racism campaign started in 2011 and has as its overarching objective:

The suspension of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) from UEFA and FIFA until Israel observes international law and respects the human rights of Palestinians.

To actually achieve this objective one of the members associations of UEFA and FIFA must propose Israeli suspension at the relevant annual Congress.  Clearly this is not an easy task in such a conservative environment.

However, RCIR started a major campaign with this objective in March 2014 when it became clear that the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) was taking steps in FIFA to highlight the repression of Palestinian football by Israel.  Finally, in May 2015 the PFA submitted a proposal for suspension of the IFA at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich.  It specified five football-related conditions that should be fulfilled before suspension could be lifted.  These included:

  • freedom of movement of Palestinian players,
  • freedom to import football equipment,
  • an IFA clamp-down on racism at Beitar Jerusalem and other israeli clubs,
  • exclusion of settlement teams fro israeli leagues, and
  • recognition of the rights of the PFA to manage its own leagues without interference.

At the last moment this was amended by the PFA to establish a Monitoring Group to ensure that these conditions are fulfilled, rather than demanding suspension,.  The Amendment was passed by a large majority.  This decision was strongly criticised by many Palestinian activist but the PFA felt that it was the only realistic route to take bearing in mind the lack of support amongst FIFA delegates for the original proposal for suspension. However sound the reason for tabling the Amendment, it is important that we now continue to ensure that appropriate action is taken by the Monitoring Group.

Surprisingly, the text of the Amendment was not seen by Congress delegates.  The FIFA president simply read out a few key points.  At the same time a text giving some “suggested solutions” was screened in front of delegates.  This text now appears to be being promoted by FIFA as the text of the Amendment.  These “suggested solutions” weaken the role of the Monitoring Group and omit two of the PFA demands.  The fact that both FIFA and UEFA presidents have actively campaigned against suspension raises great concern.  RCIR will now seek to ensure that the PFA’s Amendment is used as the basis of the Terms of Reference of the Monitoring Group.  If the Israelis fail to act as demanded by the PFA’s Amendment then  and a further proposal for suspension in 2016 is likely.

Prior to 2014/15 RCIR has undertaken some more focussed campaigns to raise public awareness and some details are given below and on the website.  In summary, these are:

  • Ongoing:  leafleting at football grounds during the season
  • 6 September 2015: demonstration at the Wales v Israel match in Cardiff.
  • July 2015.  Petitioning against pre-season friendlies by Norwich and Cardiff teams with Israeli teams.  These are being held in Austria and the Netherlands respectively.
  • 2015: writing to players in the England Women’s Under 19 team participating in the finals tournament in Israel advising them of the racial situation and  suggesting visits to Hebron and Bethlehem.  We have also demanded that no game be played at the Beitar Jerusalem ground, infamous for racist chanting.
  • 2014:  arguing against any of the thirteen EURO 2020 games being scheduled in Jerusalem, successfully.
  • 2013:  arranging a UK tour for Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak.
  • 2011-13:  demonstrating and arguing against the UEFA Men’s Under 21 finals competition being played in Israel.   Considerable support was achieved amongst leading human rights campaigners, including the late Stephane Hessel, and footballers including Kanoute and fifty others, and there was good press coverage.

As well as the information below, further information and contact details are given on the campaign website: Red Card Israeli Racism


In May 2012, a courageous hunger strike by Palestinian national team player Mahmoud Sarsak, detained in Israel for three years without charge or trial, shone the spotlight on the injustices inflicted on Palestinians by the Israeli state. RCIR was able to enlist support for Sarsak from high profile figures including former Manchester United and France star Eric Cantona. An outcry from international professional footballers’ associations, anti-racism campaigners and even FIFA president Sepp Blatter, procured Sarsak’s release and highlighted the damage done to Palestinian football by Israel ‘s discriminatory policies. (Ingrained discrimination in Israel and the Occupied Territories has been condemned by a United Nations body as violating its prohibition on apartheid

We believe that the human rights abuses suffered by Palestinians at the hands of Israeli authorities are totally unacceptable and need to be countered.

We are all British or Irish members of organisations that strive to support the Palestinian people: PSC (Palestinian Solidarity Campaign), FOA (Friends of Al-Aqsa), JBIG (Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods), BIN (Boycott Israel Network) and BNC (Boycott National Committee, Palestine).

We believe that sporting activities can do much to improve relations between communities.  Yet by admitting Israel to European sporting organisations those organisations directly condone the institutionalised racism in Israel. The Israeli government simply does not conform to European values.  Its apartheid policies should disqualify the Israeli Football Association from membership of UEFA. By trying to cut off Israeli inroads into European sporting activities we believe that we can bring pressure on Israel to drop its racism and apartheid policies and laws. In that way the long term future ofIsrael will be ensured and Arab and Jew can live in mutual respect.

We see our work as part of the wider BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activity that was formally established by Palestinians in 2005.

Israel has about 60 established or proposed racist laws (see Adalah), half of which have been proposed in the last three years. It encourages widespread discrimination and practices ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide. Therefore it is not surprising that there is a high degree of racism amongst some Israeli citizens and in Israeli football, both in team selection and on the terraces.

More hidden from view is how Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians in the Occupied Territories penalise footballers. The restrictions have meant that often a full team cannot be brought together. In October 2010 Mr Platini acknowledged this problem and made thinly veiled but unofficial threats to expel Israel from UEFA if restrictions were not removed. In January 2011 Palestinian national coach Moussa Bezaz spotlighted these problems on the FIFA website. When the team goes abroad it brings the danger of a member not being re-admitted without internment, as has occurred.  Yet worse, in 2006 Gaza’s stadium was specifically destroyed. In Operation Cast Lead 2008-9 three Palestinian footballers sadly lost their lives.

Yet Israel was admitted to UEFA in 1994 and has its maintained membership ever since.

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Latest Football & Sports News Articles (pre-2014)

Sports News
  • Red Card Israeli Racism – FIFA update May 28, 2015 As news spreads of the corruption proceedings against leading FIFA officials, behind closed doors a fierce political battle is being fought over the Palestine Football Association’s motion for suspension of the Israel FA – due to be debated at FIFA Congress on Friday. The PFA is coming under intense pressure to withdraw the motion and accept another last-minute ...
  • Red Card Israeli Racism- update April 5, 2015 STOP PRESS:  Blatter to meet Palestine football chief over bid to bar Israel–sow.html Red Card Israeli Racism campaign: Outline on 30 March 2015 This campaign extends BDS into football. The Israeli government considers membership of European sports confederations a vital part of its normalisation activities. Of the sixteen existing European sports confederations, Israel is a member of 15 (including ...
  • Fight Israeli Racism through Football February 20, 2014 Red Card Israeli Racism The Israeli government violates international law.  It discriminates against Palestinian Arabs through laws and actions involving ethnic cleansing, cultural genocide and collective punishment.  This discrimination is severe, widespread, and unrelenting.  It is generally unrecognised. Palestinian footballers suffer their share.  They are arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned without charge, cannot travel freely and cannot ...
  • Red Card Israeli Racism Campaign Workshop Saturday Oct 19 October 19, 2013 Red Card Israeli Racism Campaign Workshop 11.30 – 16.30 Saturday October 19, 2013 Room  4429/36 School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)   Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG Close to Euston and Kings Cross mainline stations. Underground stations nearby: Russell Square, Goodge Street, Euston Square, Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Warren Street. CALLING ALL BDS-SUPPORTING FOOTBALL FANS! In the first half of this year BDS ...
  • Calling All BDS Supporting Football Fans! September 19, 2013 The Red Card Israeli Racism campaign exceeded all expectations in forcing Palestine onto the agenda of international football bodies and media over many months in the run up to the UEFA under-21 finals in Israel in June. Using a combination of grass roots actions at the UEFA annual congress, outside and sometimes inside football grounds, petitions ...
  • Time to show Israel the red card, says Palestinian footballer July 13, 2013 NAOMI WIMBORNE-IDRISSI 12 July 2013 Published at Open Democracy There has been a sad catalogue of children falling victim to Israeli bullets and shells while playing football in the “wrong” place. As president of the world football federation FIFA, Sepp Blatter has put his name to many projects supporting the sport in Palestine, most recently inaugurating the Joseph Blatter Football ...
  • Should soccer boycott Israel’s European Championship? June 13, 2013 (CNN) – Mahmoud Sarsak is twice the man he used to be. The diminutive Palestinian soccer player is sitting in a small cafe in central London, tired but otherwise surprisingly healthy for a man who had lost half his body weight during a hunger strike 12 months ago. It is his first visit to the British capital but, ...
  • Racism and politics in sport: What about the Palestinians? June 2, 2013 MONDAY JUNE 17 6.30 pm School of Oriental and African Studies LECTURE THEATRE G3 On the eve of the final match in the European under-21 football competition, due, controversially, to be played in Israel, an expert panel will explore the impact of politics and racism in football and the role of sport as a means for Palestinians to resist ...
  • Protesters invade Uefa dinner after security lapse May 25, 2013 Anti-Israeli protesters storm stage at London event Guests included David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson Anti-Israeli protesters took advantage of a security lapse to infiltrate a dinner for Uefa‘s top officials in London on Friday night. Guests at the event – including David Beckham and Sir Alex Ferguson – were stunned as three people, two men and a woman, ...
  • Mahmoud Sarsak tour of England, Scotland and Ireland May 18, 2013 Mahmoud Sarsak Scottish leg of tour: 1-16 June Mahmoud Sarsak was a member of the Palestinian national football team who was seized by Israeli troops, held without charge and tortured over many weeks in Israel’s notorious prison system. After three years, i.e. six ‘democratic and lawful’ periods of six months imprisonment without trial or charge, Mahmoud went ...

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Boycott Israel Network