Much has been said and written about the events surrounding the cancellation of the friendly match between Argentina and Israel. In observing some of the comments and the general sentiment concerning the decision by the Asociación del Fútbol Argentino (AFA) to cancel the match, I wanted to share my own assessment.
Firstly, I find that a more nuanced perspective may be necessary to appreciate some of the intricacies involved. Emotive references by angered individuals to Argentina’s history of providing refuge to Nazi criminals are not relevant to this situation. Nor is there any reason whatsoever to claim that the cancellation is a function of antisemitism. Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that the AFA suddenly decided to embrace the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) ideology.
What is relevant to this situation is that Argentine players came under a tremendous amount of pressure to have the match canceled. The reality is that this pressure reportedly included death threats to the players themselves and to members of their families. Now, it is important to highlight that these players are well-known public figures who live and travel across the world including to places where security is lax. And so, in just a matter of days, this same Argentine team is set to perform on the biggest stage in the world at the World Cup. Does anyone think that terrorists would not be keen on making a statement at the largest sporting event in the world?
Yes, the cancellation of the match shows terrorists and their supporters that blackmail and threats do indeed scare people. Yes, this decision runs the risk of opening the door for other similar actions in the future. However, this incident also exposes the evil of BDS and its ilk for all to see. The episode clearly underscores that the BDS philosophy and tactics of intimidation directed at the Jewish State are not merely an Israeli problem but a global problem. Also, this experience should serve to forge a deeper understanding of terrorism and Middle-Eastern reality for Argentine players and their fans.
Of course, it's understandable to be disappointed about the cancellation. Of course, it would have been magnificent to have the best player in the world (with all due respect to Cristiano Ronaldo) play in the holiest city in the world. However, the risk calculus must be understood. We must appreciate that the AFA is not interested in making martyrs out of its players and that it has to stay true to its own mission. So, let's not hand BDS a victory by falsely accusing AFA of siding with the bullies. Instead, let's recognize that Argentinians were not the villains in this story, and let's focus on the solidarity that should grow out of this experience between Israeli and Argentine players. And let's hope that in the not too distant future, Argentina and Israel will come together to play a friendly in Jerusalem as closer friends than ever before.