Activists in Catalonia, home to Messi’s club side Barcelona, hailed the news as a “victory.”
Israel’s culture and sports minister, the far-right politician Miri Regev, accused “terror groups and BDS” – a reference to the grassroots boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign for Palestinian rights – of being behind the cancellation, and expressed hopes Argentina would still change its mind, The Times of Israelreported.
“The right thing”
In the first public statement by a member of the Argentina squad, Gonzalo “El Pipa” Higuaín, who is also a star striker for top Italian club Juventus, told ESPN that “the right thing was not to go to Israel.”
Solano added that the cancellation was a blow to the government of Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri “which had imposed [the match with Israel] on the squad as part of its agreements with the criminal Netanyahu.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally called Macri Tuesday night in an effort to reverse the decision.
But according to Israeli media, the Argentinian leader told Netanyahu “that he has no influence on the decision whether or not to hold the game as scheduled.”
Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Argentina of caving in to “anti-Semites who support terror” – the now standard Israeli government label for anyone who calls for Israel to end its military occupation, killings, land theft and other abuses against Palestinians.
While Israel openly uses sports – like the Giro d’Italia cycle race – for its political propaganda, it accuses athletes who refuse to be used in that manner of being the ones to play politics.
In that spirit, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin stated that the “politicization that lies in the Argentinian step worries me greatly” and made the outlandish assertion that “even at the most difficult of times we made an effort to leave considerations that are not purely about sports off the playing field.”
Argentina’s cancellation is an enormous slap to Israel’s confidence that it would be able to continue killing Palestinians in Gaza, among other war crimes, without paying any price.
While it spills Palestinian blood, Israel expends enormous resources to use sporting and cultural events to sell itself as an attractive and progressive country.
Palestinians are determined to counter this by persuading artists, academics and athletes to stay away from Israel, just as international figures did during the campaign against apartheid in South Africa.
A sports boycott was a major part of that campaign.
In an effort to spin a big defeat, Israel’s propaganda apparatus has begun spreading claims that Argentina players had received “threats.”