The Cancellation of a Soccer Match Isn’t a Victory for BDS

June 14 2018

Last week, Argentina’s national soccer team announced that it would not be participating in a friendly match scheduled to take place in Jerusalem this weekend. The reason? Multiple death threats made against the Argentinian soccer players and their families. In response to the announcement, the former terrorist and current head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, has claimed a victory. Ben Cohen comments:

[I]s the decision of Argentina’s Football Association an uncomplicated victory for the BDS hate campaign targeting Israel? The answer is no, for several reasons. To begin with, nowhere in its announcement of the cancellation did Argentina’s national soccer authority declare political solidarity with the Palestinians, condemn Israel or, critically, endorse a ban on sporting links with Israeli teams. . . . The world’s soccer [teams] are not boycotting Israel, and in the four years since the last World Cup [competition], Israel has hosted national [teams] from Spain, Wales, Albania, Bosnia, Italy, Uruguay, and Cyprus for both competitive and friendly matches. All of these games have been played at different stadiums in Israel, among them the supposedly controversial Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem where the Argentina match was to have taken place.

[On the other side] is Rajoub himself. His campaign to have Israel expelled from FIFA (world soccer’s governing body), replete with vile anti-Semitic comparisons between the Jewish state and Nazi Germany, failed miserably in 2015. A more recent effort to have FIFA sanction Israel’s Football Association over West Bank-based teams competing in the country’s national league similarly petered out, leading Rajoub to accuse European soccer chiefs of feeling overly guilty about what “some European countries did to the Jews last century.” (He means the Shoah.)

So how is it that Rajoub is suddenly able to boast of a political victory handed to him, he says, by the Argentine captain and megastar Lionel Messi, perhaps the most revered soccer player in the world? . . . Rajoub issued a series of vulgar threats against Messi, promising, should the game go ahead, to burn Messi replica T-shirts, souvenir photos, and wall posters . . . on social media. Reports of death threats on social media against the Argentine players quickly followed.

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More about: Argentina, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Soccer

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy