Archive | May 28, 2015

FIFA Corruption Crisis and the Israel Vote*

FIFA Corruption Crisis and the Israel Vote*

By Geoff Lee

The FIFA corruption crisis came just as its annual congress was due to debate a motion calling for Israel to be suspended from world football.

One consequence of the US order to the Swiss police, on 27 May 2015, that it arrest and extradite seven FIFA officials for alleged corruption, could be that a vote to kick Israel out of world football for its racism towards Palestinians will now not take place. The vote was due to be held by the FIFA annual congress on 29 May and expected to win majority support among the delegates. Below Geoff Lee from Palestine Solidarity Campaign explains why the vote should go ahead.

THERE IS a unique situation in the Middle East: in that one country, Israel, is deliberately hindering another – Palestine – from playing football, and exhibits racism and discrimination against Palestinians within its own jurisdiction.

Due to this, Palestinians are demanding action which is perhaps slightly belated, but nonetheless, as urgent as ever. On 20 March 2015, the Palestinian Football Federation (PFA) submitted a motion for debate at the upcoming 28-29 May FIFA annual congress in Zurich. The motion calls for the suspension of the Israeli Football Federation (IFA) from FIFA until the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. Football participants and all equipment related to the sport are able to move freely in, out and within Palestine.
  2. Football facilities are to be built and maintained in Palestine without hindrance.
  3. Football clubs established within illegal settlements in the West Bank are to be banned from playing in IFA competitions
  4.  IFA is to take firm action in order to eliminate racist and apartheid practices within its own leagues.
  5. IFA is to recognise the PFA as the sole governing body for football within Palestine.

These conditions address longstanding grievances. PFA has supported initiatives by FIFA for nearly two years, but regrettably – though not unexpectedly, these came to naught.  For this reason, it argues, strong pressure in the form of suspension of IFA is needed to bring about essential change.

Israeli repression of football in Palestine

The Israeli Football Federation is effectively a state institution that is supported financially by the government and controlled by the State Comptroller. It cannot escape its complicity in its government’s actions and so breaches FIFA’s Statute 3, which prohibits racist actions punishable by suspension or expulsion. FIFA has challenged this complicity, but a 2009 declaration in the Knesset clarified that the IFA was a “public institution…supported [by the State] “.

Palestinian children play football in front of the Israeli Wall

Israel’s assault on footballers

Footballers have suffered tremendously in Palestine. During Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, 16 footballers and coaches – and 13 other sportspersons – were killed. Three more, Saji Darwish, Oda’i Nafez Jabr and Mohammad al-Qatri, were shot dead in the West Bank. Al-Qatri was apparently executed after his arrest.

In January of 2014, two footballers and family members, 19-year-old Johar Nasr Halabiyeh and 17-year-old Adam Halabiyeh were walking beside Israel’s Apartheid Wall and were shot repeatedly by Israeli soldiers. Their injuries left them both permanently disabled.

Restriction of movement of footballers

Israel also systematically restricts the freedom of movement of all Palestinian athletes, including footballers. The use of road blocks to control Palestinian movement often means that away games can take two days and cause worry for players’ families, even though the game could be in a neighbouring town or village.

Athletes, staff and officials are also routinely denied permission to travel internationally, as well as between the West Bank and Gaza. Matches have had to be cancelled and foreign visitors have been humiliated at borders.

Arrest, imprisonment and torture of footballers

Many athletes and footballers in particular have been targeted because of their participation in sports. For example, in July 2009, leading national team member, Mahmoud Sarsak, was arrested without charge, imprisoned for three years and tortured while in prison. He was only released after worldwide pressure was imposed by FIFA and UEFA. In April 2014, Sameh Maraabeh was arrested and imprisoned without charge for eight months then denied permission to travel to the 2015 Asian Games in Australia.

Damage and destruction inflicted on facilities

Football has suffered tremendously due to Israel’s restrictions on the development and maintenance of football facilities in Palestinian territories. For example, uncountable football pitches and buildings were either severely damaged or totally destroyed in Israel’s wars in 2008/9 and 2012 on the Gaza Strip.

In 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, the pitches and buildings of 30 Gazan football clubs were damaged or destroyed, but the rebuilding of facilities in the West Bank has been extremely difficult. Since many of these facilities are in Areas B and C (80 percent of the West Bank) Israel has the power to prevent development for what they deem “security reasons” while FIFA officials have been prevented from constructing new facilities as part of FIFA’s Goal Project. Additionally, the importing of new equipment to both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank has been blocked and massive taxes have been imposed.

Israeli repression of football for Palestinian citizens of Israel

According to FIFA’s own statutes on racism, IFA should immediately be suspended for its discrimination against Palestinian athletes who are Israeli citizens. For instance, Israel has singularly failed to eliminate overt racism at the Beitar club that has branches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities.

The blatant racism imposed at Beitar Club has been highlighted to FIFA and UEFA by The Mossawa Centre and the Coalition Against Racism. IFA has never been disciplined for the club’s failure to employ any Arabs, and the management that signed two Chechen Muslims was ousted, as were the players – after destructive demonstrations by fans. In November of 2014, during a football match, Beitar fans chanted “Death to Arabs.” This kind of chanting has been an issue in the past and continues.

IFA recently segregated Palestinian youth teams from Jewish youth teams by splitting a national children’s league in the al-Shomoron area, in clear breach of FIFA’s statute (No 3) on racism. Reports say that this action was taken following the request of parents of Jewish child participants. The rights group, Adalah (the Legal Centre for Arab Minorities in Israel) has taken IFA to the district court and a decision is yet to be determined.

Israel has failed to stop the alarming growth of racism against Arab minorities in Israeli football. The Coalition Against Racism in Israel’s 2013 report stated that incidents in the premier league were rising steeply and that despite various initiatives in this field, it appears that so long as enforcement measures are not announced, including penalties, this trend will not show any significant decline.

Why play against an Israeli team? 

Israeli breaches of football’s codes of behaviour are indicative of the extreme and worsening racism within Israeli society and the apartheid system imposed by the Israeli government. The whole world knows of the Gaza massacre and many will have noted how little has been achieved in rebuilding the infrastructure and dwellings destroyed in the 2014 onslaught.

However, most people in the world do not know of the ongoing, month by month repressive acts throughout the West Bank – nor of the ongoing repression of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, who comprise 20 percent of the population. Israel ignores international law and does not respect the human rights of Palestinians.

While FIFA and UEFA often argue that politics and sport don’t mix, FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter has publically recognised that sport has a political dimension. For Israelis, sport is a profoundly political issue and it is desperate to be accepted as a country like any other. Thus it seizes upon every opportunity to emphasise its close partnership with Europe and has hosted UEFA matches, even in Jerusalem, which it has illegally annexed and wishes to promote as its “undivided capital”.

Uniting against racism in football

FIFA suspended the South African Football Association in 1964 and only re-admitted it in 1992 once apartheid had been rejected in civil and sporting society. Several prominent South African leaders who campaigned against apartheid in South Africa, including Archbishop Tutu, have stated that Israeli apartheid is far worse than South African Apartheid and that Israel is guilty of far more serious crimes against humanity.

The president of the Asian Football Confederation, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, declared his commitment to tackling the “illegal Israeli practices” hindering Palestinian soccer.

European campaigns

The UK’s Red Card Israeli Racism campaign has worked for the rights of Palestinian footballers for about four years. Also active have been EuroPalestine (France), BDS France,  BDS Italia, and groups in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Irish Republic, Luxembourg, Northern Ireland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and elsewhere.

Considering Israel’s failure to abide by the rules of FIFA, IFA must be suspended until Israel learns to respect human rights of Palestinians and observes international law.


76dba-iuRelated Topics:

Woman Who Led Palestinian Bid for ICC Membership Arrested 24hrs of Succeeding*

Israel Stopped South African Minister’s Visit to Palestine*

If U.S. et al Hold out Long enough there will be no Palestinian State to Recognize*

Palestinians to Prosecute Israel at ICC on June 25*

Palestinians Now Forced to Live in Caves*

Brits Out in Thousands against Another 5 More Years*

Brits Out in Thousands against Another 5 More Years*

By Deirdre Fulton

Since the Tories gained a majority this month, there have been several protests. (Photo: The People’s Assembly Against Austerity/Facebook)

Since the Tories gained a majority this month, there have been several protests. (Photo: The People’s Assembly Against Austerity/Facebook)

Thousands are gathering in London on Wednesday, protesting the conservative Tory government’s ‘oppressive and draconian’ austerity program.

According to the Guardian, organizers expect a crowd of around 5,000—including a large student bloc—to rally at Trafalgar Square, while another 2,000 are expected for a separate march from Downing Street through Westminster.

The demonstrations were scheduled to coincide with the Queen’s Speech, an annual event marking the formal start to the Parliamentary year, in which the Queen of England outlines what UK citizens can expect from the government in the upcoming year. Earlier this month, the UK elections brought a surprise lurch to the right, with the Conservative Party gaining full control of the government and Prime Minister David Cameron sweeping back to power with more muscle behind him than before.

During the campaign, Cameron vowed to cut welfare spending, weaken labor unions, and implement pro-business reforms in the education and healthcare sectors.

Or, as anti-austerity organizers put it in their call-to-action, “the new Government is going to try to: smash the welfare state by £12bn, privatise the [National Health Service], raise tuition fees, decimate local services, make strike action illegal, scapegoat migrants, worsen the housing crisis and to crush all dissent that stands in their way.”

Writing about “Tory brutality” in a People’s Assembly blog post on Tuesday, Ruby Utting wrote:

As a nation we are told that we are on the road to recovery, and Tory soundbites would have us believe that ‘we are all in this together’… however their definition of a recovery seems to be the preservation of wealth and position for those who already have both at the cost of choice and opportunity for everyone else.

While the Tories appear to have backpedaled on a plan to repeal the country’s Human Rights Act, the speech delivered Wednesday by Queen Elizabeth II indicates that the party intends to follow through on many other campaign promises.

One Tory proposal, for example, would cut the housing benefit for 18-21 year olds—a plan the social service organization St. Mungo’s Broadway said would “make it extremely difficult for young people in vulnerable situations.”

Wednesday’s rally and march are in direct opposition to that platform, known as the Conservative Party Manifesto.

“It really is to remind the Conservative government…that there’s absolutely masses of people who are out there who they don’t represent and are ready to put up a fight if they do things which they mention in their manifesto,” said Hannah Sketchley, a spokeswoman for the Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), which organized the event in Trafalgar Square. “Democracy doesn’t end at the ballot box and it never ever has.”

Signalling growing momentum behind the opposition movement, other anti-austerity demonstrations are planned for Saturday, May 30 and Saturday, June 20.


Related Topics:

A Day after the U.K. Elections Protestors Marched on Westminster*

U.K. 3,000 Lightening Bolts in Two Hours!*

Fears of a British Policed State Rising Midst the Elite Paedophile Scourge*

U.K.: Can you Cut Public Spending to 1930s Level with 2014-18 Cost of Living?*

U.K. Bleeding the Teaching Profession Dry*

A U.K. Revolt against ‘exam factory’ Schooling*

Being Driven Insane, Mentally Ill Children Kept in U.K. Prisons*

U.K. Elections Rigged!?*

U.K. Setting Children up for Failure*

U.K. Fingerprinted over a Million Pupils in Schools without Parental Consent*

Big Bank Food Speculation: U.K. Blocks Move to End Rising Prices*

U.K.s Chancellor Gives Power to take from Personal Bank Accounts*

Elite Powerbrokers Behind Sweeping Censorship in U.K.*

U.K. Cyber Brigade Serves to Spread Lies on Social Networks*

Genetic Testing or U.K. Population Surveillance*

A Petition of 15,000 against Water Tax Hikes Ignored by Irish Officials*

A Petition of 15,000 against Water Tax Hikes Ignored by Irish Officials*

Anti-austerity campaigners in the Republic of Ireland say Cork City Council’s refusal to accept a petition opposing the Irish government’s water charges is undemocratic and an insult to local citizens.

The petition was handed over by 50 anti-water charges campaigners who had gathered outside Cork City Hall before a local council meeting on Monday.

The petition called upon local councils to stand firmly against the water charges and actively encourage local citizens to resist paying them.

It contained the signatures of 15,000 local people who strongly oppose the Irish government’s water taxation policy.

The recently implemented water charges form part of the Irish government’s wider debt re-payment plan in the wake of a crippling bank bailout that cost Irish taxpayers over €64 billion. Campaigners maintain they are an austerity tax, and will impact on society’s most vulnerable.

In a climate of widespread poverty, negative equity and mounting repossession orders, Irish protesters continue to campaign against the government’s recently implemented water charges. Protesters gathered outside Cork City Hall on Monday had hoped to give their petition to Cork’s Lord Mayor Mary Shields or Deputy Lord Mayor Ken O’Flynn.

However, they were informed beforehand that neither Shields nor O’Flynn would be available to meet with them.

It is believed Shields was out of office on business, but O’Flynn was attending Monday’s local council meeting.

Activists said O’Flynn’s refusal to accept the petition was an offense to public office and “a gross insult” to the people of Cork.

Speaking to Irish news site The Journal, they said the petition should have been accepted irrespective of the Deputy Lord Mayor’s political views.

O’Flynn told The Journal Cork’s Office of the Lord Mayor is “above the body of politics and couldn’t possibly engage with political movements.”

He insisted arrangements had been made for an official Cork City Council representative to collect the petition, but it later transpired that these arrangements “didn’t suit the group in question.”

Leading anti-water charges campaigner, Diarmaid Ó Cadhla, rejected O’Flynn’s argument.

Ó Cadhla, who attended the demonstration in Cork on Monday, said campaigners in possession of the petition just wanted an official representative to acknowledge their presence.

“We just wanted someone to come down the stairs, even if all they said was ‘I’m here from the council’ and took the petition,” he said.

Referencing the Deputy Mayor, Ó Cadhla noted O’Flynn was chairing the meeting but did not accept the petition.

Ó Cadhla said that while this outcome was expected, the anti-water charges campaigners were hopeful that a council member would be able to convince a representative to accept the document.

“The petition had 15,000 signatures – that’s 10 percent of Cork city and if you exclude children, it’s more like 20 or 30 percent,” he added.

As part of its water taxation policy, the Irish government set up semi-state firm Irish Water in July 2013. The company is responsible for developing Ireland’s water infrastructure and billing citizens for water usage.

National pressure group Right2Water, which has campaigned against the government’s water charges in recent months, argues the provision of adequately treated water and sanitation is a vital public service and human right recognized by the United Nations (UN).

It is calling on the Irish government to legislate accordingly and abolish the water charges.


Related Topics:

Water as a Weapon in Baltimore*

The Privatization of Water*

A Small Town Fights Back When Nestlé Tries to Sell Them Their Own Water*

Water as a Weapon in Baltimore*

Water as a Weapon in Baltimore*

Police shootings have increased since the police murder of Freddie Gray – the highest since 1999, now the plan to turn off water supply to 25,000 households makes the game – plan clear… damned if you do, and damned if you don’t protest

Damien Henson (at podium), 43,of Edmonson Village, says he received a water turn-off notice from the city over what he believes is an erroneous bill. (Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun).

On April 1, Baltimore started turning off water to 150 households a day. The city plans to turn off 25,000 residences in total. There are commercial and public entities in Baltimore that owe $15 million, but they are not losing their access to water.

Baltimore has a history of overcharging residents. This resulted in a $4.2 million refund to about 38,000 residents in 2012.

Beginning in July 2013, Baltimore is raising water rates by 42% over a three year period.

Advocates say that the city’s programs to assist residents are burdensome and inadequate. There is a one time grant of about $160 available for those who qualify.

Residents of Baltimore are concerned about the water shut offs for a number of reasons. Questions have been raised about whether this is a move to privatize the city’s water system and whether the shut offs are related to gentrification efforts.

Residents are organizing to fight back. We need your help. Please sign the petition below and spread the word. And consider making a donation (choose Baltimore). CLICK HERE to donate.

Protesters Call On Mayor To Stop Water Shut-offs Over Unpaid Bills

By Luke Broadwater in the Baltimore Sun

Damien Henson, 43, says he is a hard worker who always paid his bills on time.

But when his water bills spiked wildly, the Edmondson Village man thought it better to contest them than pay. Now he’s received a turn-off notice from the city saying he owes $3,700.

“They tell you, ‘Pay the bill.’ The rest is on you,” says Henson, a married father of one who manages a Wendy’s.

“I feel like it’s pretty ridiculous I have a $3,700 water bill. We have a lot of unanswered questions. We need answers.”

Henson was among 50 protesters who gathered Thursday outside City Hall to object to the city’s decision to send turn-off notices to about 25,000 customers who owe a combined $40 million in long-overdue bills. City officials say they will shut off water to customers with unpaid bills of over $250 dating back at least half a year . The notices include an estimated turn-off date, generally within 10 days of receipt.

This month, the city says, it began shutting off about 150 water accounts a day.

The protesters – a coalition of unions, advocacy groups and religious organizations – called on the city to collect overdue bills from commercial accounts before going after residents. They demanded the city impose a moratorium on water shut-offs until officials do more outreach and come up with a plan that protects renters if their landlords don’t pay water bills.

“Water is a human right,” said Charly Carter, director of Maryland Working Families, a progressive [read: Democratic] political organization that led the protest.

“Hundreds of residents have already lost service. These shut-offs will create a public health disaster.”

The city’s public works director defended the turn-off program Thursday, saying it’s necessary to stop freeloaders from taking advantage of the system [read: families hurt by the financial crisis who can’t afford the elevated rates]. He said payment plans and grants are available for low-income residents.

“Nobody likes to have their water turned off,” said director Rudy Chow. “But it is an unfortunate fact of doing business that some customers fall behind on their bills. Standard industry practice is to turn off those customers who do not pay.”

Chow said renters who receive turn-off notices should “be in communication with their landlords” to get them to pay the city.

Over the past two years, the problem of unpaid water bills has grown in Baltimore. As of April 2013, about 19,500 customers owed $29.5 million, records show. Since then, the amount owed has grown by nearly 40 percent.

In 2012, a review by the Baltimore Sun found that some big businesses, government offices and nonprofits had run up more than $10 million in unpaid water bills.Today, just 369 of the past-due accounts are commercial properties, but they make up $15 million of the missing revenue, city officials said.

More than 21,000 of the overdue accounts representing about $28 million owed, are in Baltimore City. More than 4,000, which owe $13 million, are in Baltimore County.

The city has about 400,000 water customers, about half of them in Baltimore County.

Chow said the problem has grown in part because of a weak economic recovery in some Baltimore neighborhoods and because widespread water-billing errors in 2012 made officials reluctant to shut off water.

He said thus far this year, no properties that use commercial-size meters have had their water turned off, but said those that do not pay will face consequences.

“We are serious about collecting from commercial accounts,” he said.

“Our water and sewer system will not give a free pass to large users only to be subsidized by the residential customers. We will not tolerate those who can afford to pay but choose to abuse the system.”

Chow said more than 1,700 customers have paid about $1.3 million since the notices started going out. He said more than 500 customers have entered into payment plans, while hundreds more have contested bills or applied for city grants.

Chow said city workers will make at least two phone calls to businesses, government offices and apartment complexes with overdue bills before water is cut off. Customers who pay will have their water turned back on within 24 hours, city officials said.

The city has yet to release a list of which commercial properties owe the largest bills. The Sun has filed a public information request for that information. Chow said bankrupt RG Steel’s delinquent city water bills account for about $7 million of the uncollected funds.


Related Topics:

The Watery Road to Serfdom: After Detroit, Baltimore*

Six Baltimore Officers Indicted for Freddie Gray’s Death, but…*

‘We Won’t Pay’ say Thousands of Irish to Water Privatization*