Sports

Argentina against Israel had coincided with a 'disastrous day' for the Middle East

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KATHMANDU, June 6: Argentina made a last minute cancellation in its final friendly game against Israel at the Teddy Kollek Stadium in Jerusalem on June 9, a 'disastrous day' for the Arab states including Palestinians in its history.

Jerusalem remains a controversial territory with disagreement between Israel and Palestine, with the former claiming their eternal capital. US President Donald Trump on May 14, 2018 inaugurated the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem which coincided with the 70th Nakba Day, a term used by the Palestinians to describe their forced exodus during the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is also celebrated by Israelis as Independence Day.

The FIFA World Cup 2018 friendly match was cancelled amid Palestinian protests and outcry, including a viral video for the Argentine Football Association (AFA) by a young Palestine footballer Mohammed Khalil urging to cancel the match. Khalil was shot by an Israeli sniper in the knee during the ongoing Great Return March demonstration.  A petition was also signed by various pro-Palestine supporters urging the five time Ballon d'Or winner and his team to back off from the event of 9 June.

The friendly match coincided with one of the days of the Six Day War (June 5-10, 1967), a historical turning point that dictated the subsequent course of the entire Arab world. The war was fought between Israel and the Arab states (Egypt, Syria, Jordan). About one million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were expelled out from their homes, and estimated 130,000 from Golan Heights were pushed out by the Israeli army. Arab casualties were far greater than Israelis. About 15-17,000 Arab soldiers were killed while 5,000 were captured.  At the end of the war, Israel seized the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula to the Suez Canal. It also issued the Israeli Declaration.

FIFA officials, on the other hand, cited safety concerns as one of the main reasons for the last minute cancellation. This leaves AFA with just two warm up matches before the finals in Russia, which begins next week.

There had been high pressure for the cancellation of match since last week. Global media reported protests from Palestinian activists in areas near West Jerusalem.  For days, Palestinian activists had lobbied and rallied to convince the Argentine squad to pull out from the decision for a friendly match in the "Occupied Palestine".  

Telesur, a Venezuelan news agency said that the Argentine Committee of Solidarity with Palestine had called upon their national team to cancel the June 9 match.

The Jerusalem Post reported the decision was also influenced by pro-Palestinian protestors' demonstration in Buenos Aires and Barcelona against the pre-world cup match. Head of the Palestinian soccer association, Jibril Rajoub told the press calling the Argentinean decision to play in Israel "handing oneself over to politics". 

In addition, several human rights organization as well as the new international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement handed over the letter to AFA expressing their objection to the scheduled match.  The BDS movement is a global campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel until it met its obligations under the international law.

The BDS campaign comes amid increased attacks by the Israeli Defensive Force against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza border on the occasion of 70th Great March of Return or the Nakba Day.  The BDS movement estimated that the Israeli government had paid three million dollars to host the match whose 20,000 tickets were sold out within 20 minutes, The Times of Israel reported. least 29 unarmed Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,000 injured by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) over the past two weeks, including a 21 year old female medic Razan Al – Najjar who was shot dead by an Israeli sniper in the open square east of Khan Yunis in the Gaza strip while helping the demonstrators.

June 6, 2018 03:26 PM