In the face of intense local and international pressure, the Argentina national football team has canceled its scheduled June 6 match against Israel at Haifa’s Sami Ofer Stadium. The decision was made despite lengthy preparations in Buenos Aires and the raising of $2.5 million to fund the friendly.
Calls for the cancellation of the game have come from the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and Argentina’s Palestine Solidarity Committee, as well as human rights and solidarity organizations in the South American country. The demands were made in response to a letter from Palestinian football club Al-Khader to the Argentina national team.
The letter received widespread attention, not least because Al-Khader FC player Mohammad Ghneim, 19, was killed by occupying Israeli forces in April. It also mentioned the killing by an Israeli sniper earlier this month Al Jazeera the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh as well as all other Palestinian martyrs killed in their occupied lands.
Argentina’s “friendly” against apartheid Israel is over.
In a widely publicized letter, the Palestinian club Al Khader, whose player Mohammad Ghneim was shot in the back by Israeli soldiers in April, asked Argentina to withdraw.
Not playing with apartheid is always the right decision. pic.twitter.com/W1pmby7SQr
— PACBI (@PACBI) May 24, 2022
The club told the South Americans they “cannot remain silent while a side as important as Argentina plan to come here to play a ‘friendly’ game that will be used by Israel to clean up its apartheid regime, with impunity allowing Israel to murdering and maiming young Palestinian football players among his many crimes.” The letter was addressed to the president of the Argentine Football Federation, Claudia Tapia.
“Keep the number 14 in mind,” read the letter from Al-Khader FC. “It was our teammate Mohammad’s team number. He’s not a player now, but you can help stop Israel from continuing to kill our young Palestinian players. Mohammad was shot in the back by Israeli soldiers near his family’s home , and that’s it.” not far from Israel’s infamous apartheid wall, which cuts off our lands, steals farms, takes water resources, and separates Palestinian cities.”
At the Argentina Football Association headquarters in Buenos Aires, Palestinian activists welcomed the cancellation of the game in apartheid Israel. They held up Palestinian flags and showed red cards to condemn Israel’s violations of apartheid against the Palestinians.
🇵🇸Argentina. Celebraron frente a la AFA que la selección de fútbol no viaje a jugar a Israel /Reivindicación de la lucha del pueblo palestino – https://t.co/fCW2i9IdNW
— Rafael Araya Masry (@arayamas) May 27, 2022
Palestinian football clubs have previously called for international solidarity. Four years ago, Palestinian solidarity groups in Argentina helped cancel the national team’s warm-up match ahead of the World Cup in Jerusalem. On that occasion, Israel argued that the Argentine team withdrew because of Palestinian threats against the stadium.
In March 2018, 134 football clubs demanded that Adidas stop sponsoring the Israel Football Association (IFA). They argued that Israeli teams would be allowed to compete in the occupied West Bank, where “Palestinian players are routinely attacked, jailed and killed.” In fact, Palestinian players are often denied freedom of movement to play in their own games. In addition, the occupying Israeli army has bombed and destroyed many Palestinian soccer fields and other sports facilities. Israel even prevents Palestinians from importing soccer equipment and developing playing and training facilities.
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Football is now a global phenomenon and the move by Argentina’s national team will expose Israel’s injustice and abuses against the people of occupied Palestine. The reality of Israel’s ugly face will be laid bare for all to see.
Several elite footballers have publicly signaled their solidarity with the Palestinians, as have some clubs. While critics argue that sport should not be mixed up with politics, the truth is that sport should not be divorced from freedom and justice. Footballers and other athletes should not be used to whitewash Israel’s apartheid regime. So full marks to the Argentina national football team for making this bold, principled decision.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect Middle East Monitor’s editorial policies.