Futbol aka soccer – a game in Israel’s crosshairs

Mural on Palestine Stadium entrance in Gaza

Mural on Palestine Stadium entrance in Gaza

The international FIFA scandal got more ink and soundbites than it deserved, in my humble opinion.

Maybe that organization is oozing in corruption, and the arrests of high FIFA officials were warranted. It wouldn’t surprise me.

Maybe Sepp Blatter’s reelection was fair and square. I doubt it.

The real story here never got much attention. I’m disappointed.

Palestine Stadium

Palestine Stadium

Here’s the story you should have read or seen on the nightly news:

1) Israeli authorities have routinely locked up Palestinian futbol (aka soccer) players, and thrown away the keys. Mahmoud Sarsak comes to mind. Arrested and held without charge for 3 years, he was finally freed following a very long hunger strike when he lost more than 1/2 his body weight. (* I think he’s recently been detained again.) And it’s well-documented that Israeli authorities frequently prevent or delay Palestinian athletes from traveling for practice or games.

2) The Palestinian Authority, in response, had urged FIFA to expel Israel from the organization.

3) That vote was scheduled to occur this week but, mysteriously, the U.S. Department of Justice decided to arrest high-level FIFA officials on charges of corruption, following a 4-year FBI investigation.  Interesting timing!

4) Also mysteriously, the Palestinian representative suddently withdrew his motion to expel Israel.

Despite an avowed determination to see a vote on the issue, Rajoub withdrew the proposal Friday. Instead, the 209 FIFA member associations voted to set up cooperative groups to work out problems.

The proposal calls for creating “a three-party working group (composed of the Israeli and Palestinian authorities and a representative of FIFA) that would meet monthly to clarify and solve issues.”

It also calls for introducing “football IDs” for Palestinian athletes and officials, to help speed up the process of passing through checkpoints.

The proposal was adopted with support of 90 percent, garnering 165 votes.

Palestine Stadium destroyed by Israel in November 2012.

Palestine Stadium destroyed by Israel in November 2012.

Palestine Stadium in Gaza destroyed by Israel in November 2012

Palestine Stadium in Gaza destroyed by Israel in November 2012

Palestine Stadium destroyed by Israel in November 2012

Palestine Stadium destroyed by Israel in November 2012

Palestine Stadium destroyed by Israel in November 2012.

Palestine Stadium destroyed by Israel in November 2012.

Now I’m not sure 2 + 2 + 2 = 6 here but I’m pretty sure there’s a story behind the story that we’re not hearing. A good reporter would be asking more questions.

1)  Why did the U.S. Justice Department decide to make the arrests now, not last year? (On a side note, why go after FIFA officials while Wall Street bankers should be arrested?)

2)  Why did the Palestinian representative withdraw his demands for a vote to expel Israel?

3) Why did the Israeli military target the Palestine Stadium in Gaza? Has it been rebuilt?

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