Israel to Olympic Committee: Suspend PA official who threatened Messi

Israel’s strategic affairs minister says that the chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee’s behavior “goes against all the values of Olympic sports.”

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Jibril Rajoub is not worthy of being an official representative to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, on Wednesday.

Erdan sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach asking that the longtime Palestinian Olympic Committee chairman be suspended from the organization just as he had been suspended from FIFA, the world soccer body. That retaliatory action came in August after Rajoub threatened the safety of world-famous Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi if he and his team came to play a World Cup warm-up match in Israel earlier in the year.

Rajoub is also the chairman of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), and after his remarks were publicized, the Argentinians pulled out, citing safety concerns.

“Rajoub called on football fans to burn shirts and posters of Argentinean national team player Lionel Messi simply because he expressed a desire to play in Israel,” the minister wrote in his letter, timed to arrive before an IOC meeting that will soon be held in Buenos Aires.

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

Rajoub has appealed the suspension for “inciting hatred and violence,” which he deemed “absurd.” However, even if he can’t attend international soccer games for a year, and has to pay the $20,600 fine, he will still be allowed to run the PFA and attend FIFA meetings.

Erdan is seeking a more substantial punishment for the vociferously anti-Israel PA official, at least in terms of image, as the prestige of the Olympics outweighs even that of the governing body of the world’s most popular sport, soccer.

He urged the committee to “prove that it is a professional international sports body that acts according to practical considerations… that it is not a political body that enables a person who supports terrorism and violence to be counted among its members.”

Rajoub is a convicted terrorist, having spent considerable jail-time in Israel for throwing a grenade at an army bus in 1970. His life sentence was cut short when he was released in a prisoner exchange deal in 1985, but he was rearrested soon after for continuing terrorist activity and was eventually deported to Lebanon.

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He steadily rose in Fatah’s ranks until the Oslo Accords brought him back to Israel and he became the head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force, from which he was dismissed in 2002.

In 2009 he was elected to the Fatah Central Committee and became its secretary general in 2017.