Arabs on Israeli soccer teams banned from Palestinian national team by PA

Despite coach’s desires, the head of the Palestinian soccer federation forbids Arab stars from joining the national team.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) soccer association, has decided that Arab players in Israeli leagues cannot add their talent to the Palestinian team currently competing in the Asian championships, Walla News reported Monday.

He put the ban in place despite the fact that the PA’s national team coach, Algerian Noureddine Ould Ali, very much wanted to add Ali Khatib of Hapoel Hadera and Ala’a Abu Saleh of Hapoel Iksal to strengthen his side in the Asian Cup. Abu Saleh was not allowed to join even though he had been on the Palestinian national team when he played in the PA league.

The Palestinian team is not, however, completely bereft of Arab Israelis – even those who grew up and were trained in Israeli youth leagues – as the embargo is only on those now competing for Israeli teams. Those who play professionally in the PA league were welcomed with open arms.

Rajoub’s anti-Israel bias is longstanding. In 2015, he urged the international soccer governing body, FIFA, to suspend Israel because he claimed Israel prevents Palestinian players’ “freedom of movement,” though he ultimately withdrew the attempt.

In 2016, he tried to get FIFA to expel six Israeli teams based in Judea and Samaria, claiming that they violate the body’s rules by playing in another association’s territory.

In August, FIFA banned Rajoub from attending games in an official capacity for a year after he incited hatred and threatened violence against Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi if his team came to play a friendly match with Israel before the 2018 World Cup. The Argentinians canceled their appearance due to the perceived danger to their players, and Messi specifically.

The Asian Football Confederation’s tournament is played every four years and is currently taking place in the United Arab Emirates. 24 teams are taking part, including various Arab countries, Japan, Australia, China, and Iran, among others. The Palestinians drew with Syria 0-0 in their first match.