Michael Freedman

Don’t cry for Argentina, Israel!

How desperate BDS must be If getting an exhibition soccer match cancelled is a big victory
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (L) and teammates take part in a training session at the FC Barcelona 'Joan Gamper' sports center in Sant Joan Despi near Barcelona on June 5, 2018. (AFP / PAU BARRENA)
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (L) and teammates take part in a training session at the FC Barcelona 'Joan Gamper' sports center in Sant Joan Despi near Barcelona on June 5, 2018. (AFP / PAU BARRENA)

Some basic facts about the cancelled Israel-Argentina football match:

The coach has repeatedly stated that he did not want to travel to Israel to play this game, for reasons of logistics and exhausting his players right before the World Cup. He wanted to host it in Barcelona, where the team are training, instead of having to fly to Russia via Israel for this game.

Higuain and the other Argentine players have never called for this game to be cancelled or boycotted on political grounds as far as I can tell. Their statements relate to the direct threat level by Palestinians towards them and their families, and the same footballing reasons as the coach.

The Palestinian FA resorted to blackmail against Argentina by threatening to undermine their bid for the 2030 World Cup if the game went ahead.

The head of the Palestinian FA is Jibril Rajoub, a multiple-convicted violent terrorist who is on record as having said that if the Arabs had nuclear weapons, they would use them right away — a direct threat of genocide. He is rumoured to have personally summarily executed Hamas members in the West Bank in the 1990s (not that I’m shedding too much of a tear for that). And they accuse Israel of “sportwashing”!

People are busily quoting the Argentine FA vice-president Hugo Moyano as if he is some kind of neutral observer. He is a political acolyte of the previous Peronist government of Christina Fernandez de Kirschner, who covered up the murder of dozens of Jews and non-Jewish bystanders in the AMIA and Israeli embassy bombings by Hizbollah. He is the secretary general of the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT), which much like most trade unions around the world, is radically against what they see as Western capitalism and imperialism, and enormously pro-Palestinian. Moyano is currently being investigated for multiple acts of money laundering and other unlawful activities.

I also note that in typical fashion, Israel’s politicians also made this vulnerable to cancellation. Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev insisted that the match be switched from Haifa to Jerusalem. I suspect that if it were in Haifa, the security threat would have been far lower, harder to tie the game into the politics of the embassy move, and in a famously mixed city, it would have been harder to bandy about the usual accusations of apartheid etc.

My analysis: if this is the kind of “victory” that the Palestinians and the BDS movement have to resort to, it demonstrates their frustration and desperation.

The world has moved on.

Right-minded people are well aware that what happened at the Gaza border was clearly an act of pre-meditated violence on an enormous scale. They also understand Israel’s genuine attempts to avoid loss of innocent life, even as Hamas are actively throwing people into harm’s way. Most even saw through attempts to connect the Gaza violence to the embassy move, and a substantial number also get that recognising the bleeding obvious, that Jerusalem is our capital, does not preclude an eventual Palestinian state with part of it as theirs – which is why Russia quietly recognised West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and is what Trump actually said in making this decision.

They know that Hamas are brazenly hoodwinking them with their lies to camera in English about atrocities (ably backed up by the PA and other cheerleaders) whilst their leaders proudly state in Arabic on TV that the Gaza violence was premeditated, that most of the dead were their members, and can barely contain their glee that it has all gone exactly to plan in terms of garnering world sympathy and moving the Palestinians back onto the front page. In this context I wouldn’t even be surprised if this young medic was intentionally targeted by her own people. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Threatening acts of violence against players and their families, holding a World Cup bid to ransom, repeated attempts to have Israeli sporting institutions thrown out of global bodies, hot on the heels of similar efforts to derail hosting next year’s Eurovision — this is a desperate attempt at a cultural intifada, and it’s a sign of a movement that has lost its core arguments, and would rather continue to evade taking responsibility for the welfare of its own people by deflecting criticism with cheap publicity stunts at the expense of a third country.

Macri’s Argentina sees Israel as an ally and a strategic partner for economic development. Once the fuss dies down, Argentina-Israel bilateral trade will carry on growing from last year’s $300m, and the citizens of both countries will enjoy reaping the benefits of this relationship.

Any time the Palestinian leadership and their erstwhile supporters want to actually do the right thing by the Palestinians, they will stop these petty campaigns of vilification and start working on how to ride Israel’s coattails on these trading relationships — something that Israeli governments from left to right, including this one, have repeatedly stated a willingness to encourage. It’s in our direct interests to see a strong Palestinian economy with thriving international trade.

Attempting to disrupt or destroy Israeli trade and other civil relations with the international community does not help this at all — it actually comes at both our expense. When Israel struggles and is isolated, it makes matters worse for Palestinians, not better — this is not a zero sum game where trade we lose is money you win, or a football game we don’t host is one you now will.

If the Palestinians were seriously intent on building their own state at anything other than our expense, their approach would be to ask Israel to arrange the same privileges and access as it has, not try to undermine the same — whether it’s FIFA, the EU, Eurovision or bilateral relations with Argentina. A future Palestinian state will thrive by looking globally for its role models and partners, not trying to replicate the failed or repressive regimes of the Middle East. It could not ask for a better road map to resilience and prosperity than Israel.

About the Author
Michael is Executive Director of Asquith Israel Merchant Bank, which seeks to go "Beyond the Start-Up Nation" by investing long-term in Israeli growth companies.
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