Israel lashed out Wednesday at Argentina’s national football team over the cancellation of a pre-World Cup friendly in Jerusalem, as Palestinians celebrated the decision after protesting the game.
The Israeli embassy in Argentina on Tuesday announced the “suspension” of Saturday’s match with its national team, citing what it called “threats and provocations” against Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.“It’s a shame that Argentina’s footballing nobility did not withstand the pressure from Israeli-hating inciters,” Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on Twitter
He said the sole aim of opponents of the Jerusalem game was “to strike at our basic right to self-defence and to bring about the destruction of Israel”.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reported to have called Argentinian leader Mauricio Macri in a failed bid to get the game reinstated.
The Palestinian Football Federation — which had urged Messi not to take part — welcomed the scrapping of the game, insisting sport should not “be a tool for politicians and for political extortion”.
The head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, told a press conference that the decision was “on the right track”.“I think this is according to FIFA statutes and according to their principles and mission to promote ethics and values, and to build a bridge between nations rather than being a tool for political ends,” he said, adding: “the Israelis tried to use Messi and those stars from Argentina.”
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) also thanked the team and striker Lionel Messi specifically for the decision, and called for Israel to be booted from world football for its abuses against Palestinians.
“We welcome news that (Argentina’s) ‘friendly’ football match with Israel has been canceled!” PACBI wrote on