HOW POLITICS WORKS

Amira Hass on the Palestinian Football Association’s FIFA flop:

I would suggest that Palestinians angry that once again a Palestinian leader has caved should learn something about how politics work.

A Palestinian insistence that FIFA vote for Israel’s suspension would have ended in failure. The head of the Palestinian soccer federation, Jabril Rajoub, could have retained a macho image and flaunted the demand to put the Palestinian resolution to a vote, just as those who fire Qassam rockets at Israel from Gaza flaunt their dubious military achievements. But the predicted defeat of the motion would have given a kosher stamp of approval to Israel’s violations.

But now, 167 delegates have affirmed in the amendment that passed: “Restrictions of Palestinian rights for the freedom of movement.  Players and football officials both within and outside the borders of the occupied State of Palestine, have been systematically restricted from their right to free movement, and continue to be hindered, limited, and obstructed by a set of unilateral regulations arbitrarily and inconsistently implemented. This constitutes a direct violation by IFA of Article 13.3 of the FIFA Statute, specifically in relation to Article 13.1(i) and its correspond[ing] articles in UEFA rules.”

Commentators spoke of a yellow card against Israel, not a red card. Another hackneyed phrase — a snowball effect — would no less accurately reflect the maneuver room the Palestinian delegation managed to create.

There are two problems with this analysis.

First, without a popular movement to run with them, the measures conceded to Rajoub will be forgotten by next week, if they haven’t been already. In an uphill battle there can be no ‘snowball effect’ without a sustained effort to keep the ball rolling.

Second, even if Amira is correct that as of 29 May, at the culmination of the FIFA bid, Rajoub’s choices were limited to a doomed insistence on Israel’s expulsion or lowering Palestinian demands to an acceptable level and thereby securing a promising basis for future campaigns, things didn’t have to reach that point. 

There was a third option available well before 29 May, namely, to mobilise the Palestinian people into a genuine movement capable of investing the FIFA campaign with real political weight, rather than having isolated and compromised officials shoot for an easy, headline-grabbing victory without doing any of the preparatory work that might make it possible.

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