We who support Israel know all about the hypocrisy that surrounds verbal attacks on the country, including recent laughable examples in which international agencies decided that only Israel, among all the nations in the world, was worthy of criticism over women’s rights and health care.
But the Palestinians realized they went too far when they took the diplomatic battle into the world of soccer.
Much ink and angst were expended throughout May over the prospect of soccer’s global governing body, FIFA, taking the “Israel is an apartheid nation” nonsense to its illogical conclusion and treating Israel just as it did South Africa in the 1980s.
To that end, the Palestinian Football Association proposed extending the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement from business and academics to sports and ousting the Israeli Football Association from FIFA. That would have meant no Israeli participation in international competitions, such as qualifying for the World Cup, and could have led Israeli players to disavow their citizenship to play in such competitions or even to win spots in the top professional leagues, such as the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and the Bundesliga.
The theory behind such a soccer boycott — that the resulting distress would drive the Israeli public to demand an immediate withdrawal to the Green Line and sue for peace on any terms sought by Palestinian President-for-Life Mahmoud Abbas — is as far from reality as Jimmy Carter’s declaration that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is a man of peace.
But it would have been a bitter pill to swallow with Israel still alive for its first-ever qualification for the European Championships in 2016 (a big game at Bosnia-Herzegovina is coming June 12), not to mention the delicious if unlikely prospect of Israel’s earning a spot in the 2022 World Cup in front of the Hamas-funding sheiks of Qatar (think Jesse Owens humiliating Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Olympics).
Given the recent success of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli resolutions before international organizations, there was a real chance of Israel’s ouster May 29 — until the United States indicted 14 FIFA officials on corruption charges two days earlier.
That indictment and the spreading international investigation into FIFA ruined the Palestinian plans.
People who a week earlier would have guessed that FIFA was just a common name for French poodles suddenly were paying close attention to the soccer federation’s operations and its presidential election between Switzerland’s Sepp Blatter, seeking a fifth term after 17 years in office, and Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein.
The prince never had a chance to unseat Blatter, who remarkably claims no responsibility for the corruption that is rife throughout his organization, but the controversy was enough for Blatter to fail to win, or allow himself not to win, the required two-thirds majority on the first ballot.
His inevitable re-election exposed to casual observers what committed soccer fans already knew: FIFA is as dirty as water is wet. And that revelation undermined the Palestinian plan.
When the U.N. Human Rights Council, World Health Organization or World Food Program singles out Israel, the resulting headlines have propaganda value for Israel’s foes. As biased as those organizations might be, they have clout and trustworthy names.
FIFA, since May 27 at least, is an international joke. To neutral observers, any negative FIFA action would have made Israel look good.
So the PFA dropped the ouster bid. In its place FIFA passed a measure calling for the free movement of soccer players, and Israel escaped the threat with only a yellow-card warning.