The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) has urged Argentina to cancel a friendly football match against Israel, scheduled to be played in Jerusalem this month.
In letters sent on Monday to the Argentine Football Association, the South American Football Confederation and football’s world governing body FIFA on Monday, PFA President Jibril Rajoub protested the choice of venue.
Rajoub accused Israel of “politicising sport” by hosting the June 9 friendly at the Teddy Stadium, which sits on land once home to a Palestinian village before it was destroyed by Israeli forces in 1948 during the creation of the state of Israel.
“Israel, the occupying power, has … [acted] in contravention of universal values and norms governing the principles of sport,” Rajoub said, adding that the match would cost Argentina its sporting and moral reputation.
“They are also misleading the Argentine public by promoting the city as ‘the united Jerusalem’ for the Jewish people.”
According to comments made by Daniel Benaim – the fixture’s organiser – and carried on the Israeli Football Association’s website, more than 600,000 people have expressed interest in purchasing a ticket for the game. The Teddy Stadium has a seating capacity of 31,733 people.
‘Nothing friendly about military occupation’
Argentina will compete in this year’s FIFA World Cup, hosted by Russia, which begins on June 14. Israel, however, failed to qualify for the tournament.
Last month, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – which demands an end to the occupation of Palestine, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return for all Palestinian refugees to their homes – launched a campaign urging Argentina to pull out of the fixture.
BDS criticised the fixture as “political”, and accused Israeli officials of using it to cover up attacks on Palestinians “on and off the field”.
“There is nothing ‘friendly’ about military occupation and apartheid. Don’t play Israel until Palestinians’ human rights are respected,” the movement said.
Israel considers BDS to be an anti-Jewish organisation.
The status of Jerusalem, half of which was occupied and annexed by Israel following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, is highly contested.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its “united” capital, whereas Palestinian leaders see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
Earlier this month, the United States relocated its embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, drawing the ire of Palestinians and provoking widespread regional and international condemnation.
The move came amid a seven-week long series of demonstrations – known as the Great March of Return – along the Gaza fence.
Israeli forces have killed 123 Palestinians and wounded 13,000 others since the protests began on March 30, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said Israeli forces responded to the protests in a “wholly disproportionate” manner, and called for an international investigation into possible human rights violations.