After claiming success for Argentina’s cancellation of the friendly football match with Israel in June, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has placed another controversial match under their crosshairs.
This time their target is the match between Israel and Northern Ireland, which is scheduled for 11 September in Belfast. The friendly has been condemned by Palestinian groups who have called on the Northern Irish Football Association (IFA) to rethink its decision to host the match.
Palestinian campaigners for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel say that Jewish state “uses international sporting events to prop up its failing image as it becomes increasingly isolated due to its flagrant contempt for Palestinian rights”.
Protesting against the decision to host the game, Palestinian groups cited numerous examples of Israeli brutality against Palestinian footballers including the targeting of footballer Muhammad Khalil Obeid in both knees by an Israeli sniper.
Appealing to the IFA, Palestinians mentioned that Gaza has a newly formed football team made entirely of amputees. Nearly 90 per cent of its players lost limbs due to Israel’s violent military attacks on the civilian population. They also noted that the Israel Football Association includes six teams based in illegal settlements that rob Palestinians of resources and push Palestinian families off their land.
Irish political party Sinn Féin backed the Palestinian call for the cancellation. Culture Arts and Sport spokesperson Sinéad Ennis called on the IFA to cancel the international friendly saying that she had made the request on “the back of the recent massacre of over 100 demonstrators and the maiming of thousands more by the Israeli army”.
“Sinn Féin support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel under which cultural, academic and sporting links fall,” Ennis added in her comments revealing details of the meeting with the IFA.
Concerned that another match will be cancelled, anti-BDS groups in Israel are gearing up to resist the protest. One of them is Lev HaOlam, which was formed four years ago to combat BDS. The organisation states on its website that it buys products from small retailers on “Israel’s front-lines, in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] and the Golan Heights, who suffer from the international boycotts and then help market their products around the world”.
It claims to be the “biggest buyer in Judea and Samaria” to sell goods from illegal settlements to “customers from dozens of countries including Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Singapore, Australia and the United States”.