With the backing of the Israeli Football Association (IFA), Comtec, an Israeli production company, has announced that it will send a delegation to FIFA headquarters Switzerland and push for the Argentinian football team to be removed from the upcoming World Cup in retaliation for the recent decision of Argentina’s Football Association to cancel a “friendly” match against the Israeli national team that had been scheduled for this Saturday. According to reports, Comtec – which was involved in planning the match – and the IFA are set to claim that Argentina should be expelled from the World Cup in Russia due to “religious discrimination” against the Jewish people after choosing to stand in solidarity with Palestine.
On Wednesday, the national football team of Argentina shocked the world as it announced it would not participate in a “friendly” match after pressure from Palestinian rights groups, including Boycott Divest Sanctions (BDS). It was only the latest victory for Palestine solidarity activists as several other Latin Americans of note, such as musicians Shakira and Gilberto Gil, have also canceled public appearances in Israel in the wake of Israel’s massacres of unarmed protesters in Gaza.
While the announcement was understandably welcomed by Palestinians and the BDS movement, the decision likewise provoked a firestorm of criticism from Israel. Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, who recently claimed that there are “no innocent people” in Gaza, accused Argentina’s team of falling prey to “anti-Semites who support terror” while Israel’s minister of Culture and Sport, Miri Regev, similarly claimed that “the decision for cancellation is down to one reason, terrorism.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – while he has yet to make a public statement on the matter – desperately tried to intervene and salvage the match in a phone call Argentinian President Mauricio Macri on Tuesday night. However, his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
Accusations of “terrorism” from Israeli officials have their origins in efforts by Jibril Rajoub, president of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), to protest the match were it to have taken place. Those efforts involved Rajoub calling last Sunday for “everyone to burn their Messi shirts and pictures and renounce him” if the game continued as planned.