BDS Pressure on Argentina Proves: Intimidation Works

The cancellation of a planned football (soccer) match between the Israeli and Argentinean national teams is, without doubt, the BDS campaign’s biggest success to date. It’s also the clearest evidence that BDS relies on intimidation.

As reports emerged last night of the game’s cancellation, Hugo Moyano, second vice president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) told Argentinian Radio 10 that “the players’ families were suffering from the threats.”

The players’ families weren’t the only ones feeling the heat. Argentina’s star player Lionel Messi had been personally targeted by Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub, who on Sunday called on fans to burn the forward’s shirt if he appeared on an Israeli football pitch. Fans swiftly turned up outside an Argentinean training session in Barcelona with “blood-drenched” shirts.

BDS campaign intimidating Barcelona's Messi

The campaign didn’t end there. The following day, Rajoub let the Argentinean FA know that if the game went ahead, their bid to host the 2030 World Cup would come under threat. “It is with regret that we hereby declare that, should the Argentinian National team continue its plans to play in Jerusalem, we will launch a worldwide campaign to question Argentina’s eligibility to host the FIFA World Cup 2030,” the Palestinian Football Association said in a statement.

With the Palestinian cause commanding the sympathy of the Arab bloc of countries and many others in South America, Africa and Europe, the threat of potentially losing the prestige of hosting the world’s premiere football competition no doubt impacted the Argentinians’ thinking.

Notice a pattern? Boycott Israel or else, Messi was told: Your shirt sales in the Middle East will drop, and you’ll become a hate figure. Boycott Israel or else, the Argentinean Football Association was told: Cancel the game or your bid to host the World Cup will be derailed. Boycott Israel or else, the players were told: Don’t play in Israel or your families will be targeted.

There’s a word for this: Intimidation. And last night, shamefully, it worked.

The timing of the cancellation clearly demonstrates that the Argentinians did not independently come round to the Palestinian way of seeing; they were threatened, bullied, and extorted. It should be abundantly clear that the Argentinians had no problem playing in Israel. Messi himself already appeared in Jerusalem in 2013, when he came with his Barcelona teammates on a peace tour, at the invite of former Israeli president Shimon Peres.

Let it be clear: BDS is a racist, intolerant, hate-filled movement concerned not with what Israelis do, but who they are.

Messi and co. know full well that the average Israeli is not responsible for the endless bloodletting in the Middle East, the vast majority of which has nothing to do with Israel. But if the conversation is really about human rights, how come this year’s World Cup is to be hosted in Russia, a notorious human rights violator?

How come a regime adjudged to have committed “multiple and grave” human rights abuses in Crimea, according to the United Nations, including arbitrary arrests, torture and the imposition of Russian citizenship on residents of the former Ukrainian region, is allowed to host such a prestigious competition? Where is the anti-Russian BDS campaign? How is it that a country which assassinates political opposition, lawmakers, journalists, and even critics of the government in foreign countries using highly dangerous nerve agents, a state with an appalling LGBT human rights record, and a track record of rampant torture in the police and military, is not the subject of a boycott campaign?

Russia is far from alone. The next World Cup, in 2022, is scheduled to take place in Qatar, that other paragon of human rights. A country where women who get pregnant outside of wedlock are jailed, where flogging and stoning as legal forms of punishment, and in which dozens of foreign workers have had their passports confiscated and held in outrageous conditions, working in potentially life-threatening heat and humidity. According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of workers are dying every year. Where is their boycott campaign?

No, not a peep. BDS isn’t concerned with universal human rights; it’s concerned with selectively demonising Israel. Let it be clear: This is a racist, intolerant, hate-filled movement concerned not with what Israelis do, but who they are. If human rights were the motivation, dozens of other countries should have come under scrutiny. That they don’t is proof that BDS seeks to punish Israelis for existing. Nothing less.

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About the Author
Emanuel Miller is Marketing and Content manager for HonestReporting, an organization dedicated to defending Israel against prejudice in the media.