Home » Palestinian football boss says Australia denied visa ‘under the pressure’ of Israel ahead of FIFA qualifier

Palestinian football boss says Australia denied visa ‘under the pressure’ of Israel ahead of FIFA qualifier

The head of Palestinian football who questioned Israel’s participation in the FIFA World Cup has claimed the decision to deny him a visa to Australia was politically motivated.

President of the Palestinian Football Association and head of the team’s FIFA committee Jibril Rajoub will not join his national team ahead of a qualification match in Perth tonight.

He told ABC News from Ramallah in the West Bank that he believed there was “some kind of Israeli influence on this decision”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Monday the decision was made “at arm’s length” by the Immigration Department.

“I think this is a political decision, this is a shame for those who took such a decision … I should attend the game, I should be with our team,” Mr Rajoub said.

Australia is set to play Palestine in a 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification match at Perth Rectangular Stadium tonight.

Mr Rajoub had been vocal against Israel’s participation in the competition last month, claiming it had systematically violated FIFA’s objectives.

The world football’s governing body then postponed a vote on a motion to temporarily suspend Israel over its actions in the Gaza conflict.

Head of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) Shino Moshe Zuares responded to Mr Rajoub by saying it was an “injustice … to fight for our basic right to be part of the game”.

“Make no mistake, the IFA never violated rules set by UEFA or FIFA and will never do so in the future,” Mr Zuares said.

In addition to his role as president of the Palestinian Football Association, Mr Rajoub is also a well-known Fatah operative and a former assistant to the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat.

Mr Rajoub spent several years in Israeli prisons before being released in a prisoner exchange deal in the 1980s.

Israel Minister for Foreign Affairs Israel Katz on X, formerly known as Twitter, described Mr Rajoub as a “convicted terrorist” who the Australian government had “banned … from entering the country”.

“Rajoub who praised the Hamas massacre on October 7th and called for a similar massacre in Judea and Samaria, is not fit to attend international football matches — he should stay in the Muqata and play wall ball instead,” Mr Katz wrote on Sunday.

Mr Rajoub said the Palestinian national team was “hesitant even to play” after his visa was denied.(ABC News: Haidarr Jones)

Mr Rajoub previously said the minister had made “serious threats to imprison” him after the FIFA motion in May.

He said he was in Australia in 2008 and 2015, so the visa denial this year was a “stupid and silly decision”.

“There’s someone, somewhere in the government of Australia who are behaving under the pressure or influence of the Israeli stupid and crazy government,” he said.

“It’s not fair to deny me the right to be with our national team.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs responded to an ABC inquiry about Mr Jibril’s case saying: “The Department does not comment on individual cases. All non-citizens applying for visas to enter Australia are considered on an individual basis against legal requirements.”

The ABC understands Mr Jibril’s visa was rejected based on an omission in his application and was unrelated to anything he said since the October 7 attacks.

‘Another kick in the guts’, community says

Former Socceroo and human rights activist Craig Foster said he supported a FIFA ban on Israel until it abided by the rulings of the International Court of Justice and UN Security Council.

“The important thing is that Australia welcome the Palestine national team and demonstrate our support for a people suffering an occupation for many decades and experiencing such horrific violence that much of the world believes, qualifies as genocide.”

Craig Foster wearing a blue suit with his arms crossed and smiling in front of a grey background

Craig Foster called on Australia to demonstrate its support for the Palestinian national team.(Supplied)

Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network president Nasser Mashni said it was a “great shock” and a “real concern” that Mr Rajoub was denied a visa.

“Palestinians, Australian Palestinians and their supporters were looking for a moment to escape the genocide that we’ve been seeing, to celebrate sport, to celebrate humanity, to see how the world game is played here in Australia and frankly it’s another kick in the guts,” Mr Mashni said.

“A big chunk of our community has flown to Perth, are flying here from Melbourne and we’re all coming out and for a moment, maybe a couple of hours, enjoy a respite from the genocide.

“We will come together and celebrate our adopted country Australia but also our home country and place of ancestry Palestine.”

Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network says Israel is committing apartheid

Nasser Mashni from the Australian Palestine Advocacy Network is in Perth to watch the game tonight.

National governing body Football Australia said it was aware of Mr Rajoub’s situation, but that it was for the government to address.

“Football Australia welcomes the Palestinian men’s national team,” a spokesperson said.

“In line with our responsibilities as the host member association, we provide visa support to all visiting football delegations and will continue to work with the Australian government to facilitate the arrival of football stakeholders.”

Mr Rajoub said the Palestinian players were “hesitant even to play” after hearing he was not able to join them in Australia, following months of Israeli bombardment and disruption.

“Our sports facilities in Gaza all were destroyed, hundreds were killed, hundreds were arrested or injured or still missing,” he said.

“The restrictions forced us to suspend all sports activities including the national league.”

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