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Israel Calls on Olympics to Ban Palestinian Sports Chief for ‘Inciting Violence’

Jibril Rajoub
AP/Nasser Shiyoukhi
DEBORAH DANAN

TEL AVIV – Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday called on the International Olympic Committee to follow in FIFA’s footsteps and ban the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, Jibril Rajoub, for “inciting violence.” 

Earlier this year, international soccer governing body FIFA suspended Rajoub, who is also the Palestinian soccer chief, for calling on fans to burn images and jerseys of Lionel Messi as part of a campaign to stop the Argentinian national team from playing in Israel.

“Rajoub was suspended and fined by FIFA for inciting violence,” Erdan noted in a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach. “I call on the International Olympic Committee to follow suit.”

“Rajoub even called on football fans to burn the Argentine player Lionel Messi’s posters and shirts for simply wanting to play in Israel,” the minister wrote.

“There should be no room in respected international organizations for those who support terror, promote violence and employ threats and intimidation,” Erdan told the IOC. “Rajoub’s behavior stands in direct opposition to the values of the Olympics.”

“I have no doubt that you are staunchly against such behavior and believe, like myself, that sports should be used to build bridges and spread peace between nations, and should not be used to promote divisiveness and racism,” he concluded.

Rajoub, who is the Palestinian Authority’s representative to the IOC, is a former terrorist who has served time in Israeli jails and routinely glorifies terror and refers to Jews as “Satan.”

Rajoub’s campaign against Messi succeeded and the friendly match was cancelled.

FIFA subsequently banned the PA sports chief from attending any soccer matches for a year, including the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates and the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying matches. Rajoub was also fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,300).

Rajoub was filmed saying in Arabic “we will target Messi and we will ask everyone to burn his t-shirt, his picture, and to abandon him.”

Photos of the team’s jersey soaked in blood circulated on social media, prompting Argentina Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie to release a statement saying the team’s players felt “totally attacked, violated.”

Israel’s Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev at the time described Rajoub’s campaign as “terror.”

“Threats to Lionel Messi’s life overwhelmed the sport. … It’s terror,” she said.

Rajoub said he would “use every possible opportunity” to reverse the decision, AP reported at the time.

“This is an unjust and political decision, an Israeli decision,” he said during a September press briefing.

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