News Analysis |
Isreal is fuming over Argentina’s decision to cancel a pre-World Cup exhibition match following political pressure and criticism against the football club. Argentina’s players decided to pull out of the game, which was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem on Saturday, “in solidarity” with superstar teammate Lionel Messi, as reported by Argentinian President Mauricio Macri.
Israel is planning to file a complaint against Palestinian Football Association for pressurizing the Argentine Football Association (AFA), as the former called on people to burn T-shirts of the soccer players. Palestinians were furious at Israel for using Jerusalem, a land whose status is of a corpus separatum, to be used as Israel’s own capital holding concerts, football matches and shifting the US embassy in a controversial move.
Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain called the decision “the right thing” in an interview on ESPN.
When the fixture was first announced, a possible venue was the Israeli city of Haifa, but the Israeli government made clear it wanted the game to take place in Jerusalem.
Palestinian footballer Mohammad Khalil, whose career ended after he was shot by an Israeli sniper in both legs as he peacefully protested in Gaza, also urged Argentina and Messi to cancel the match with Israel.
Palestinians hail Argentina and Messi for calling off Jerusalem match
Meanwhile, Palestinian FA President Jibril Rajoub has hailed the cancellation of the Argentina-Israel friendly as a “red card from everybody to the Israelis,” sitting next to a sign reading “From Palestine thank you Messi.”
In Gaza, people cheered and in the West Bank, the Palestinian Football Association issued a statement thanking Messi and his colleagues for canceling the game: “The Palestinian FA thanks Argentina’s players led by star Messi for refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal.”
“From Palestine thank you Messi”
Messi has become a hero overnight, among the Palestinians, as they celebrate him as a symbol of resistance against the illegal Israeli occupation. However, it is worth pondering over whether Messi wanted to be involved in a ‘diplomatic crisis’.
Palestinians thank @Argentina & Lionel Messi for canceling “friendly” with Israel. All the best for the #WorldCup! @FIFAcom must take note. It’s time to #RedCardIsrael due its to violations against Palestinian football and its disregard for FIFA statutes. https://t.co/Bi0EORf7ES pic.twitter.com/lSGVWJSQYi
— PACBI (@PACBI) June 6, 2018
“This was all part of the Israeli apartheid regime’s sports-washing policy to use international sporting events to cover up its war crimes and egregious human rights violations against Palestinians. The fact that Argentina fans and human rights activists around the world succeeded in thwarting it gives us a lot of hope,” stated PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).
In a vain attempt Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately called Argentinian president Mauricio Macri to intervene, but Macri replied that he had no authority over the decision. This only shows how Israel tries to exert political pressure on others to claim right over Jerusalem.
Are BDS and other Palestinian solidarity movements working?
Shakira recently canceled a concert in Israel after receiving pressure and criticism. The PACBI said in a statement yesterday that it “welcomes the announcement that Shakira will not be performing in Tel Aviv anytime soon, dashing Israel’s hopes to use her name to art-wash its latest massacre in Gaza.”
Israeli born Hollywood actress, Natalie Portman, had refused to visit Israel to accept the “Jewish Nobel” prize by the Genesis Prize Foundation. Since the “recent events” in Israel were “extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel, she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”
When celebrities and influential personalities cancel their activities in Israel, out of pressure or out of conscience, it serves a good PR to the solidarity movements of Palestine. Netanyahu is worried that the Argentine decision could lead to “the possibility that there will be pressure to cancel other events in various areas.”
Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain called the decision “the right thing” in an interview on ESPN. However, Isreal is still asserting that the match was canceled due to “blackmail” and “threats” of the Palestinians.