NEW YORK – The World Jewish Congress and dozens of its affiliated communities around the world are urging national football associations to reject a forthcoming vote regarding the standing of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) within Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), set to take place at the international football body’s upcoming Congress in Bahrain.
In a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder wrote: “The WJC strongly opposes any efforts by member countries to manipulate FIFA for their own political interests. The campaign of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) to sanction Israel has no place on the FIFA Congress’ agenda.“We appreciate the recent efforts by FIFA and Mr. Tokyo Sexwale, chair of FIFA’s Israel-Palestine Monitoring Committee, to find an equitable solution to any questions concerning the IFA. As you must be aware, the IFA has complied wholeheartedly and in good faith with all FIFA requests and initiatives to resolve outstanding issues concerning its relations with the PFA. Jews and Arabs play together on Israeli football teams and the IFA is proud of the mutual respect fostered among them by the beautiful game. The IFA brings Israelis and Arabs together in the only democracy in the Middle East that provides equal rights to Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
“With anti-Semitism and other forms of extremism on the rise across the globe, it is vital that organizations like FIFA continue to promote the values of sportsmanship, goodwill, and harmony between different communities and nations. As violent manifestations of racism and intolerance resurface in football stadiums, we must be especially vigilant in preventing toxic and divisive political agendas from undermining FIFA’s mandate of inclusion and camaraderie.
“FIFA’s position as the most prominent regulatory body in the sporting world, one which bridges divides between countries and peoples, must be safeguarded. By keeping politics out of football, FIFA’s central role in the effort to promote respect among nations through sports will be secured.
“To emphasize FIFA’s commitment to global peace and international fellowship, we recommend that it hold a friendly exhibition match between Jewish and Muslim players. This would highlight the spirit of camaraderie that FIFA embodies and ensure that the Federation, which represents football for billions of people worldwide, does not become a political battleground. We stand ready to assist in any way necessary.”