Weeks after reported violence in Gaza, Argentina has decided to cancel a World Cup warm-up match with Israel according to the BBC, apparently under political pressure over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.
“They have finally done the right thing,” Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina striker, told the ESPN sports channel on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the Israeli Embassy in Argentina reported the suspension of the match following threats to the team’s star player Lionel Messi.
Palestinians and pro-Palestine campaigners from different corners of the globe celebrated the cancellation.
The BBC reported that people in Gaza cheered after the announcement. The Palestinian football association’s chairman, Jibril Rajoub, has also issued a statement thanking Messi and his team, further adding that “values, morals and sport have secured a victory”.
This cancellation was also lauded by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel(PACBI) in a tweet saying that the “[Argentinian] team responded to creative campaigning from fans around the world denouncing Israel’s sports-washing its crimes against the Palestinians”
As part of the Palestinian campaign, the Palestinian football player Mohamed Khalil Obeid urged Lionel Messi, the Argentinian superstar, to cancel the match. Obeid was shot by Israeli snipers in both legs during the peaceful Great March of Return protests, which occurred at the Gaza borders, ending his promising football career. Furthermore, the campaign group Avaaz called the decision “a brave ethical decision”, as there is “nothing friendly in playing in Jerusalem, when just miles away Israeli snipers are shooting unarmed protesters”.
The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which advocates Israeli boycott over its human rights abuses of the Palestinians, has played a significant role in the campaign; where BDS activists in Catalonia, home to the football club Barcelona, has called the decision a “victory”.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had contacted the Argentinian president, Mauricio Macri, with hopes for the match to still take place despite the pressure on the Argentinian players.
The Israeli Defense Minister, Avigador Lierberman, criticized the cancellation decision on Twitter, calling the campaigners “Israeli-hating inciters” and “anti-Semitic terrorist supporters”. Moreover, the Israel Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, claimed that the cancellation happened because “players started to fret over being physically assaulted in Jerusalem”.
The match has been moved from Haifa to Jerusalem, after the Israeli authorities contributed funds for the match to be relocated, reported Haaretz, the Israeli news agency.
Jerusalem has been one of the main contention points in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; especially after Donald Trump announcement that the US embassy was to be moved from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, causing a local and international outrage from Palestinians as well as from International leaders. East Jerusalem is still occupied by Israeli forces, in addition to the West Bank.
During the US embassy inauguration, Israeli Defense Forces(IDF) has shot and killed more than 120 peaceful Palestinian protesters who were calling for their right of return, protesting the siege on Gaza, enforced by Israel with the help of Egypt, and denouncing the US embassy move.
The decision to cancel the match comes after a series of event cancellation under pressure from pro-Palestine activists, such as the cancellation of the Shakira and Lorde performances in Tel Aviv.