Palestinians Want Israel Out of Soccer, and Everywhere Else

A Palestinian attempt to get Israel expelled -- totally and permanently -- from international soccer was dropped at the last minute.

The Palestinian complaint was that Israel is impeding the movement of Palestinian soccer players from the West Bank and Gaza, and that Israel’s own soccer league includes five teams based in Israeli West Bank communities.

Israel, noting that the Palestinian players go through checkpoints and the like because of security concerns, offered a compromise wherein their movement would have been eased. The Palestinian side turned it down flat. At the FIFA convention on Friday, it was only at the last minute that the Palestinian delegation, realizing they would not have won the vote, gave up -- for now -- the effort to oust Israel.

Leading this Palestinian effort was its soccer chief Jibril Rajoub -- an unsavory character, to put it mildly. A former West Bank security commander who owes his career and standing to Israel, Jibril has been jailed for terrorist activity. He said two years ago that if the Palestinians had nuclear weapons they would nuke Israel “this very morning.” He has called the Israeli prime minister a “dog,” and repeatedly compared Israelis to Nazis.

In one sense, this latest Palestinian move was nothing new. The Palestinians, though lacking what was supposed to be the required attribute of statehood, have been allowed to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Their only goal: get Israel charged with “war crimes.”

Soccer, though, is something different. International sports is supposed to put politics aside and build bridges. Palestinians get brainwashed from early childhood to view Israelis as war criminals. But trying to get Israel kicked out of world soccer reveals a pure, uncompromising kind of hatred.

As Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet, such Palestinian efforts to get Israel boycotted and condemned will continue:

We are in the midst of a great struggle being waged against the state of Israel, an international campaign to blacken its name. It is not connected to our actions; it is connected to our very existence. It does not matter what we do; it matters what we symbolize and what we are. ...

I think that it is important to understand that these things do not stem from the fact that if only we were nicer or a little more generous -- we are very generous, we have made many offers, we have made many concessions -- that anything would change because this campaign to delegitimize Israel entails something much deeper that is being directed at us and seeks to deny our very right to live here.

It is not only Netanyahu who sees it that way. At about the same time he was giving his talk, popular Israeli columnist Ben-Dror Yemini announced that his paper, Yediot Aharonot, “is also mobilizing for war, in the form of a series of exposes, articles and reports in the coming weeks and months.” His war is against the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement -- an international effort, typified by the FIFA episode, to get Israel demonized, delegitimized, and ultimately destroyed.

What is notable here is that Yediot is a left-of-center paper and a fierce opponent of Netanyahu. During the latest Israeli election campaign, Yediot ran a barrage of articles blasting him for alleged sins and failures.

It’s been noted that Israelis fight among themselves a lot, and when Israelis unite, it’s usually against an existential threat. More and more Israelis understand lately that BDS -- in addition to others, like Iran’s nuclear program -- is just that.