Explainer: The Israel-Indonesia soccer dispute

Israel and Indonesia are locked in a dispute over the latter’s reluctance to host the Israeli team for an upcoming soccer tournament. An Indonesian soccer official told AFP on Wednesday that the southeast Asian country will meet FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, in Qatar to discuss the issue.

Background: The upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup for under-20 players was scheduled to begin in Indonesia on May 20. The Indonesian Football Association said on Sunday that FIFA has postponed the tournament. Earlier, the governor of the Bali region – where some of the games are taking place – asked that Israel be banned from playing there. Islamists also protested Israel’s involvement in the capital Jakarta last week, The Associated Press reported.

Bali hosted the 2022 meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in which an Israeli delegation participated.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday that Israel’s participation in the competition has nothing to do with the country’s position on Palestine. He also said he had instructed Erick Thohir, who heads the country’s soccer association, to discuss the issue with FIFA, according to Reuters.

Thohir posted a picture of himself praying “for Indonesian soccer” with the boy’s under-20 team before heading to the airport.

Another official from the Indonesian Football Association told AFP on Wednesday that the talks between Thohir and FIFA would take place in Doha. Qatar hosted the World Cup last year.

The issue has been widely covered in the Israeli press. The Israel Football Association has not commented on the matter.

Why it’s important: Indonesia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations. The majority of the population of Indonesia is Muslim and feels strongly for Palestine and the Israelis. Indonesia has never been in conflict with Israel, and Israel actually provided aid after the 2018 earthquake and tsunami, according to reports at the time.

The few Jews living in Indonesia face difficulties. Many Muslim clerics and politicians opposed the opening of a Holocaust museum in Indonesia last year, The Wall Street Journal reported. There is only one synagogue in Indonesia at the moment, in Tondano in the north of the country. A synagogue in the southern city of Surabaya, which has been the site of past anti-Israel protests, was demolished in 2013.

Israel has long struggled to compete in sports with Muslim-majority countries, particularly in the martial art of judo. In 2021, Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine received a 10-year ban after refusing to face an Israeli at the Tokyo Olympics. In the same year, Iran was suspended by judo’s world governing body for refusing to allow its athletes to compete against Israelis.

Exiled Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei in particular competed in Israel in 2021, winning praise from Israeli fans, Al-Monitor reported at the time.

More information: Israel and Indonesia are two of three countries that have signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the United Arab Emirates. The agreement is essentially a free trade deal. UAE has signed the agreements with India as well as Israel and Indonesia.

Leave a Comment