General Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestine Football Association, in a statement on Thursday said the association welcomes the decision taken by the Argentinian Football Association to cancel a friendly between Argentina and Israel, saying that by doing so, Argentina refused to be used as a political tool by the Israeli government.
Rajoub said that when the match was originally scheduled to take place in Haifa, the Palestine Football Association did not take any action. “However, it was only after the Israeli Government, through Minister Miri Regev, put pressure to move the match to Jerusalem, that we decided that this was unacceptable, violated the FIFA statutes and action had to be taken.”
According to Minister Regev, the match was going to take place in Jerusalem in order to celebrate 70 years on the establishment of Israel, to make the Argentinian national team visit occupied Jerusalem’s Old City and to boost Israeli propaganda efforts (“Hasbara”).
“This is totally unacceptable and we call upon FIFA to take note and action of this new attempt by the Israeli government to politicize a football match. It’s becoming evident that the Israeli Football Association has become a political tool of the Israeli government,” said Rajoub.
“It’s very important to also mention that the football match to celebrate 70 years on the establishment Israel was going to take place in a stadium built on top of a destroyed Palestinian village, Al Malha. Thus, the Israeli Government tried to use the Argentinian national team to humiliate Palestinian people. The move was also clearly political given the context of President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a violation of UNSC Resolution 478 that supports Israeli attempts at normalizing the illegal annexation of Jerusalem to Israel,” he added.
“Latin American countries, and particularly Argentina, know very well how oppressive regimes have made use of football in order to advance their political agendas. It is in this context that we thank the players of the Argentinian national team for standing tall to their values and refuse to be used as a political tool to whitewash oppression. At the same time, we extend our appreciation to the Argentinian people and to civil society organizations all over the world that, defending the universal values of sports and Human Rights, made clear that this match shouldn’t be played.”
The Palestine Football Association concluded by saying it looks forward to engaging with more federations in Latin America, including the Argentinian Football Association, in order to advance the FIFA goal of improving “the game of football constantly and promote it globally in the light of its unifying, educational, cultural and humanitarian values, particularly through youth and development programmes”