TEL AVIV – Israel’s sports minister said Argentina’s decision to cancel its friendly game with Israel scheduled for Saturday amid pressure from pro-Palestinian groups was “terror, not BDS.”
Sport and Culture Minister Miri Regev had pushed for the game to be moved from Haifa to Jerusalem, which was seen as a contentious move following the recent controversy surrounding the city with President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing it as Israel’s capital and the subsequent opening of the U.S. embassy there.
“The Argentinians did not object to having the game in Jerusalem,” said Regev.
“Threats to Lionel Messi’s life overwhelmed the sport. … It’s terror.”
Regev further said that Messi himself had first been the one to initiate the friendly match because he had wanted to visit the Western Wall ahead of the World Cup.
The head of the Palestinian soccer association, Jibril Rajoub, claimed Israel had turned the match into a “political tool.” He called on Arab soccer fans to burn Messi posters if the game went ahead. Rajoub is a former terrorist who has served time in Israeli jails and routinely glorifies terror and refers to Jews as “Satan.”
Argentina’s foreign minister said soccer players from the national team had received threats over playing the game in Israel.
Regev slammed members of the opposition, including the Joint (Arab) List list and other leftwing politicians who she said hailed the cancellation.
The cancellation followed an intense Palestinian campaign that included images of the Argentinian team’s jersey stained with red paint to symbolize Palestinian blood.
“In the end, they’ve done right thing, and this is behind us,” Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain told ESPN. “Health and common sense come first. We felt that it wasn’t right to go.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said the campaign was led by a “pack of anti-Semitic terrorist supporters.”
“It’s unfortunate the soccer knights of Argentina did not withstand the pressure of the Israeli-hating inciters, whose only goal is to harm our basic right to self-defense and bring about the destruction of Israel,” said Liberman. “We will not yield before a pack of anti-Semitic terrorist supporters.”