Argentina cancels match with Israel

The Argentine national football team were due to face the Israeli side on June 9th 2022 in Europe. That match has now been called off. This is the second time in less than five years that Argentina has pulled out of a match with Israel.

In 2018 Argentina pulled out of their final world cup warm up match against Israel. That fixture had originally been set to take place in Haifa, but was later moved to Jerusalem. The match’s new location would have been at the Teddy Kollek stadium, which is built on land that was formerly a Palestinian village, ethnically cleansed by Israel in 1948.

The Palestinian footballer Abdul Khalil had sent a message to Lionel Messi, captain of the Argentinian team at the time. Khalil asked Messi to stand with the Palestinian people and cancel the match, as it was going to be held on occupied Palestinian land.

Israeli snipers later shot Abdul Kahlil in both legs, leading to removal of a kneecap and the end of his football career.

The BDS movement (Boycotts, divestment and Sanctions) had also called for the 2018 game to be cancelled, asking Argentina not to play Israel ‘until human rights are respected.’ British politicians have taken steps to make the BDS movement illegal and supporting the BDS movement can cost public employees their jobs in several US states. Israel exerts a strong influence on the laws and policies of some foreign countries.

Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain said his team had ‘finally done the right thing.’ Avigdor Lieberman (Finance Minister and former Deputy Prime Minister or Israel) responded by tweeting ‘We will not yield before a pack of anti Semitic terrorist supporters.’

Back to 2022. Earlier this month, Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestinian Football Association, sent a letter to Claudio Tapia, President of the Argentine Football Association, urging him to cancel the upcoming match with Israel on June 9th.

Tapia also received a letter from football players at Al Khader Sports Club in occupied Palestinian territory #argentinadontgo . That letter detailed the death of Mohammad Ghneim near his family’s home. Ghneim was a player at Al Khader football club, and was shot in the back by Israeli soldiers. The same letter mentioned the killing of two other Palestinian footballers by the Israeli military; 16 year old Saeed Odeh, and 18 year old Thaer Yazouri. Yazouri was killed on the same day as the American Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. President Naftali Bennet circulated reports of her having been killed by Palestinians. Eye witness reports suggest there was no fighting taking place at the time of Shireen Abu Akleh’s death, and she was shot by an Israeli sniper behind her ear, which was not protected by her helmet.

Whilst Israel’s daily killings of Palestinians are rarely mentioned outside the Arab world, the death of a prominent American journalist has caused ripples. Over fifty US lawmakers have called for the FBI to investigate the killing, after the Israeli military announced it will not investigate. Even the BBC ran a news story on the Israeli army’s attacks on Shireen’s funeral procession.

Killing Shireen Abu Akleh has created a Public Relations problem for Israel. The sports world has generally been more active in it’s recognition of human rights than international media and politicians, and the cancellation of Argentina’s match against Israel is another example of this.

Over the last year, prominent footballers from Britain, France, Turkey and Chile have shown support for the Palestinian people. Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury and Wesley Fofana held up the Palestinian flag at Wembley Stadium whilst celebrating their teams victory over Chelsea. Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba have also spoken out against Israel’s aggression and expressed support for the Palestinian people.

Sources

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Nasar Karim

Nasar Karim

BSc Psychology. Writer. Dreamer. Poet. Addicted to risk.