Ban Apartheid Israel from Sports
Israel's regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid, which has oppressed Indigenous Palestinians since 1948, prevents Palestinians from practicing their sports.
During Israel’s genocidal attacks on Gaza, the Israeli military occupied Al Yarmouk stadium, transforming it into a detention, torture and interrogation center, before completely destroying it.
Palestinian players and athletes are routinely attacked, imprisoned and killed. Athletes are denied freedom of movement to attend their own matches, competitions and trainings. Palestinian stadiums and sports infrastructures have been bombed and destroyed. Israel even prevents sports equipment from being imported and sports facilities from being developed.
Racism against Palestinians is institutionalized in Israeli sports – from segregated youth football leagues to anti-Palestinian hate from fan clubs that goes routinely unpunished.
In addition, Israeli football and basketball clubs based in illegal settlements are allowed to compete in official Israeli leagues, making international governing bodies FIFA and FIBA complicit in Israel’s violations of international law.
Despite all this, Western dominated sports bodies have looked the other way, refusing to take action. More than 300 Palestinian sports clubs and dozens of civil society organizations are calling to #BanIsrael from the Olympics. Join us as we seek to ban Israel from international sports forums, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA, until it ends its grave crimes against Palestinians and its attacks on Palestinian sports.
Israel’s decades old regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid has for decades denied Palestinians their basic rights, including cultural rights. Israel has killed and maimed dozens of Palestinian athletes, including during its genocidal assault on Gaza that started in October 2023.
But well before Israel’s genocide against 2.3 million Palestinians in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip, Israel has deliberately and systematically destroyed Palestinian stadiums and sports infrastructures and detained Palestinian players and athletes. It has restricted their freedom of movement, banning Palestinian athletes in the occupied West Bank from training with their counterparts in the Gaza Strip, and subjecting them to interrogations at checkpoints when traveling across the West Bank or abroad to take part in international competitions. Israeli forces have in the past deliberately targeted the feet of teenage Palestinian footballers with live ammunition.
Meanwhile, Israel allows football and basketball teams based in its illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land to play in its official leagues. FIFA, FIBA, and the IOC have failed to take action against Israel for its inclusion of these illegal teams in its official leagues and for its attacks on Palestinian sports. By failing to act, these sporting bodies are allowing Israel to sportswash its forced displacement of Palestinians, its apartheid regime and its genocidal military assaults on Palestinians. These same sporting bodies immediately imposed sanctions on Russia shortly after its illegal invasion of Ukraine, while not only refusing to hold Israel accountable for it decades long record of grave crimes against Palestinians, which now include genocide, but actively shielding it from accountability as well.
Palestinians are calling to #BanIsrael from global sports, just as apartheid South Africa was.
Israel’s apartheid regime has killed and maimed dozens of Palestinian footballers and athletes, in its repeated military assaults on besieged Gaza, in particular the Gaza Genocide, and its attacks across the occupied West Bank.
In 2018, the Palestinian Amputee Football Association was founded in Gaza and consists mainly of players who lost limbs to repeated Israeli military assaults on Palestinians in Gaza and sniper fire at peaceful protests.
Palestinians have long complained to sporting bodies such as FIFA and the IOC about Israeli attacks against Palestinian sports, including arrest, torture, denial of movement permits of athletes, the bombing of football stadiums, in addition to routine disruptions of the import of sports equipment.
Israel’s illegal wall, colonial settlements, as well as its policy of siege, curfew and military roadblocks have systematically obstructed the practice of sports by Palestinians and denied Palestinian athletes regular training and participation in matches and tournaments, at home and abroad.
Moreover, Israel consistently prevents Palestinian athletic teams from traveling and denies entry of international athletes into the occupied Palestinian territory.
Israel has routinely arrested Palestinian players before games. In 2012, Israel demolished a community center in Silwan which served two football groups and 300 children.
Furthermore, Palestinian football players have been forced to end their sports careers after being shot by Israeli forces in the legs.
Israeli football teams enact racist policies toward Palestinians. The Israel Football Association has failed to address and sanction its constituent teams for tolerating and perpetuating racism and extremist hate speech. Below are a few examples of these discriminatory strategies.
Guy Levi, former coach for the very prominent Israeli team, Beitar Jerusalem, said he would not bring a Palestinian citizen of Israel to the team noting “Even if there were a player who fit in professionally, I would not bring him in.”
The team’s fans have habitually attacked Palestinians and were witnessed chanting “death to the Arabs” at matches against Palestinian teams. Amit Ben Shushan, football player with Beitar Jerusalem, also sang with the audience "I hate Arabs" when they won the Israeli Cup in 2009.
The Israel Football Association (IFA) runs segregated youth leagues based on national origin, keeping Palestinian and Israeli youth from playing together.
Israeli settlements are considered a war crime under international humanitarian law. The UN special adviser on sport for development and peace, 66 members of the European Parliament, 30 members of the Swiss Parliament, more than 40 members of the Danish Parliament, 38 members of the British House of Commons, civil society organizations, football fans, as well as Human Rights Watch have all urged FIFA to resolve the issue of settlement clubs.
An April 2016 report, commissioned by FIFA and written by John Ruggie, makes recommendations for FIFA to implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights throughout its activities, outlining the human rights responsibilities of businesses. This includes the exclusion of Israeli settlement teams or the suspension of the IFA from FIFA.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented the grave consequences of Israeli settlements noting: “they are located on land that has been unlawfully taken from Palestinians, they exploit natural resources that belong to Palestinians but are allocated in a discriminatory manner in favor of Israelis, and they are part of a discriminatory regime that privileges Israeli businesses while blocking Palestinian businesses, social, and cultural institutions and infrastructure from developing.”
HRW’s report on Israeli settlement teams highlights the support the IFA provides for the sustainability of the settlements despite contravening international accords. As a result the IFA “is engaging in business activity that supports the settlements. Settlement football clubs provide part-time employment and recreational services to settlers, making the settlements more sustainable, thus propping up a system that exists through serious human rights violations.”
UN officials, lawmakers, footballers, cultural icons, international human rights organizations and grassroots movements have all called for world football to sanction Israel for its widespread violations of Palestinian rights.
UN Official urges resolution of Israeli settlement clubs
In 2016, a UN official wrote to FIFA reiterating that he regards Israeli settlements – and by extension Israeli football teams that play in them – to be “without validity” and “illegal under international law.”
Public figures urge FIFA to suspend the Israel Football Association
Notable figures, including Ken Loach, Bob Russell, Ahdaf Soueif and the late John Berger have already written an open letter calling on FIFA to suspend the IFA.
Palestinian sports clubs call for action
174 Palestinian Sports Clubs have written a letter calling on FIFA to suspend the Israel Football Federation
Israel uses sports in its efforts to improve its image while committing grave crimes against Palestinians, including athletes. Grassroots campaigning can put pressure on hypocritical, Western-dominated world sports bodies to hold Israel to account and raise awareness on the conditions of Palestinian sports among sports fans.
Spread the Word
Rally the world of sports
Engage sportspeople and fan clubs in your area to speak out on Israel’s apartheid regime, genocide in Gaza, as well as attacks on Palestinian sports, and support the Palestinian call to #BanIsrael from the Olympics. See this example from Ireland.
Sign the petition “Suspend Israel from International Sports”
Join tens of thousands worldwide by adding your signature to the petition calling to suspend Israel from international sporting bodies, like apartheid South Africa was suspended.
Urge local sports associations to support Palestinian sports
Campaign for local sports associations to support their Palestinian colleagues. Raise awareness on the conditions of Palestinian athletes and sports among local sports teams and fan clubs.
Urge sports associations and players to join
Urge your country’s national football association and footballers to uphold international law. Help gather signatories from the world of football to pledge a boycott of friendly matches with Israel and Israeli clubs, sending a message that there is no ‘business as usual’ for as long as Israel continues to attack Palestinian football. For more information on how to join this ongoing effort please contact PACBI.