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Argentinian soccer team boycotts Israel — and ‘NY Times’ whitewash fails to quote a single player

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Gonzalo Higuaín is a striker on Argentina’s national soccer team that is headed for the World Cup in Russia next week. After Argentina canceled a scheduled warm up “friendly” match against Israel set for June 9, reporters approached Higuaín for comment. “They’ve finally done the right thing” he said, and the Guardian report put his comment in the second paragraph.

The BBC did exactly the same. Higuaín’s quote is also paragraph 2. “They’ve finally done the right thing.”

The New York Times faced a dilemma. How to downplay this stinging defeat for Israel in world opinion? The Times has a correspondent in Buenos Aires, Daniel Politi, and here’s what he did in today’s sports pages; he did not quote Higuaín or any other player for Argentina. Instead, he spent 22 paragraphs partly peddling an alternate conspiracy theory: that Argentina canceled not for political reasons, but because the team feared “violence” from Palestinians. (Some pro-Palestinian activists had been waving bloody shirts at a peaceful demonstration in Barcelona, where the Argentine team is fine-tuning before Russia.) .

The article at least pointed out that Israel’s sports minister, the notorious Miri Regev, had moved the scheduled match from Haifa to Jerusalem, a propaganda ploy meant to imply a stronger endorsement of Israel.

There was one tantalizing hint in the New York Times about the Argentine players themselves. An Argentine government official told the Times that “(Argentine president Mauricio) Macri apologized to (Benjamin) Netanyahu but said if the players don’t want to go there was nothing he could do.”

At this point, an honest reporter would have raced to interview as many of the players as possible to find out why they “don’t want to go.” Instead, the Times just took dictation from Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who accused the team of giving in to “the pressure of the Israeli-hating inciters, whose only goal was to harm our basic right to self-defense and bring about the destruction of Israel.”

H/T Scott Roth 

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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22 Responses

  1. John O on June 7, 2018, 1:51 pm

    Big photo of Palestinian protesters in London on the front page of today’s print edition of the Guardian. Netanyahu appears to have come away from his trip round Berlin, Paris and London empty-handed. Sadly, no European Arrest Warrant issued for him.

  2. John O on June 7, 2018, 3:59 pm

    Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation:

    “After last month’s killings, the shameful argument that any protest against Israeli human-rights violations is inherently anti-Semitic, especially the peaceful calls for BDS in response to these crimes, simply carries no moral weight. The Argentina national team is one of the most high-profile squads on earth. This truly is a watershed moment: a moment when the highest pinnacle of the sports world said no to war, occupation, and being used as a prop to support a nation in the aftermath of a massacre.”

    • Misterioso on June 8, 2018, 10:24 am


      “Report: Messi personally pushed for cancelation of Argentina-Israel soccer match”
      Ynet – published, June 6/18 ,

      “The Palestinian Federation’s President in south America, Rafael Araya Nasri, said Wednesday that Argentina national football team’s star Lionel Messi had personally pushed for the cancelation of the warm-up soccer match that was scheduled to take place between Israel and Argentina on Saturday in Jerusalem along with his teammate Javier Mascherano and the team’s manager Jorge Sampaoli.

      “‘We’ll never forget this, they are champions in humanity,’ Nasri added.”

      • echinococcus on June 8, 2018, 2:24 pm

        Obvious. If the very Zio-slave president of the country cannot force a decision on the national team it can only mean one thing: this is a decision by the team itself. Give me one other possible explanation.

        Also, if there were any dissenters within the team, don’t you think their statements would be all over every MSM screen and paper?

      • on June 11, 2018, 10:15 am

        Echi – exactly!! If there were those who wanted to go or thought it was the right thing like Argentina’s President it would be front page news.

        Now those poor footballers will be subject to Zio surveillance and hasbara – smear campaigns may follow – you don’t mess with the Zohan

  3. lysias on June 7, 2018, 4:59 pm

    WaPo story (by Ruth Eglash datelined Jerusalem) tells the same false story: cancellation provoked by threats.

  4. Edward Q on June 7, 2018, 5:24 pm

    Sports teams are filling the void left by government inaction.

    • echinococcus on June 7, 2018, 6:44 pm

      A national team is not just *a* sports team. That’s what makes this, now, one of the first real victories, or perhaps the first, of the boycott movement.

  5. Maghlawatan on June 7, 2018, 5:32 pm

    This was a massive kick in the nuts for Zionism. Argentina told Israel to fuck off.
    Messi is adored in Israel.

    Meanwhile the NYT has chosen to place itself in sick company. It is no different to the pro slavery newspapers of the pre Civil war South

    • Misterioso on June 8, 2018, 11:27 am

      @Maghlawatan, et al

      Analysis: “Israel Should Stop Playing Into BDS’ Hands or Argentina Soccer Fiasco Will Only Be the Beginning”
      By Chemi Shalev, June 6/18

      “Israeli sports minister’s intervention and agitation has handed the movement a moral victory that could spur South Africa-style sports boycott.”

      “The decision of Argentina’s national soccer team to cancel its friendly against Israel on Saturday gives the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement a dramatic victory in its own war against Israel.

      “The cancellation garnered unusually large international attention because of its proximity to the opening of the World Cup in Russia next week, and as a direct consequence of the irresponsible intervention of Israel’s flamboyant culture and sports minister, Miri Regev.

      “The game itself was of no importance, and Israeli fans of Lionel Messi will soon get over their disappointment and outrage. But the danger of the Argentine cancellation lies in the precedent it sets: It bestows legitimacy on other foreign clubs and national teams to follow in Argentina’s footsteps. The BDS movement’s moral victory could spur it to concentrate on a sports boycott against Israel, and to try to emulate the successful tactics adopted by the Anti-Apartheid Movement from the 1950s onward.

      “The South African precedent should trouble all Israelis – including those who reject any analogy between the Israeli occupation and the repressive and racist white government that ruled South Africa until the early ’90s. The sports boycott began in 1956, with the decision of the International Table Tennis Federation to expel the all-white South African team, and expanded throughout the next two decades to include cricket, rugby, soccer and the Olympic Games.”

      • Maghlawatan on June 8, 2018, 2:24 pm

        Nobody deserves sanctions like Israel does

      • Maghlawatan on June 8, 2018, 2:36 pm

        Ma sha Allah

  6. Maghlawatan on June 7, 2018, 5:46 pm

    “They lie to us and they lie to themselves about lying to us” – John Trudell

  7. Bumblebye on June 7, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Israel now wants to get FIFA to ban Argentina from the World Cup for religious discrimination:

    • Maghlawatan on June 8, 2018, 2:27 pm

      Israel is for the birds

      • just on June 11, 2018, 3:51 pm

        And the NYT is so bad that lining a birdcage with it would be an insult to birds.

        Here’s some lovely news:

        “Spain’s Third-largest City Votes to Boycott Israel …

        Following a major Spanish city’s vote to boycott Israel, the leader of Spain’s third-largest party called the Jewish state a “criminal country” during an interview aired by a public television broadcaster.

        Pablo Iglesias Turrión, leader of the Podemos far-left party, made the comment in an interview earlier this week on RTVE.

        “We need to act more firmly on an illegal country like Israel,” said Iglesias Turrión, whose party in 2015 won 20 percent of the votes in the general election just one year after its creation.

        Last week, a motion promoted by a local fraction of Podemos on the City Council of Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, was passed declaring a boycott of Israel and Valencia a “Israeli apartheid-free zone.”

        Podemos has called for a blanket boycott of Israel and has accused its government many times of pursuing apartheid-like policies. However, calling Israel’s existence illegal is a new development.

        ACOM, a Spanish pro-Israel group, said that Iglesias Turrión’s statement reflects anti-Semitism because Podemos does not consider any other country in the world illegal but Israel. ACOM also said that it has initiated legal proceedings against Valencia over its vote to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. In recent years, ACOM actions have led to the scrapping, annulment or suspension of 24 motions to boycott Israel by Spanish municipalities.

        Tribunals in Spain, including the nation’s Supreme Court in two of its rulings, have voided a total of 16 boycott motions passed by municipalities. Another seven municipalities voluntarily scrapped their boycott motions under threat of legal action by ACOM. One municipality’s boycott motion was suspended by a court injunction.

        Last week, the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party, which is the country’s second largest, and Podemos passed a no-confidence vote that toppled the government of the center-right Popular Party over corruption charges. …”

        Hope that it sticks!

  8. echinococcus on June 7, 2018, 8:19 pm

    As for the threats story, the following sure is worth underlining:

    In fact, it was AFA’s President Claudio “Chiqui” Tapia who made the decision. “The ones calling us ignorant are underestimating us because this conflict has been going on for more than 70 years. What happened in the last few hours led us to take this decision…” said Tapia in a press conference after multiple protests against the match.

  9. gracie fr on June 8, 2018, 4:50 pm

    Perhaps someone somewhere in the realm of international football and the hundreds of athletes on these teams had a pang of conscience when some image of a seriously injured Palestinian or an amputee with crushed hopes of completion flashed on a screen in transit lounge ….
    CNN’s Ben Wedeman gave a legitimate report on the consequences of Israeli fire on youthful bodies, many belonging to young people with big dreams….

  10. Marnie on June 9, 2018, 3:05 am
  11. just on June 12, 2018, 4:38 pm

    Another bright spot:

    “U.S. Musician John Maus, Three U.K. Bands Boycott Berlin Music Festival Over Israeli Funding …

    American singer and songwriter John Maus has canceled his appearance at Berlin’s Pop-Kultur music festival because the festival received financial support from the Israeli Embassy.

    According to the Stereogum music website, the Berlin-based embassy contributed 1,200 euros ($1,400) to cover the travel expenses of several Israeli musicians slated to appear in the three-day festival, in August. As a result, in acknowledgement of its support, the embassy logo appeared on the festival website. …

    Maus is not the only artist to boycott Pop-Kultur. Three British groups – post-punk band Shopping, Richard Dawson and the Gwenno band – have also announced that they will not perform.

    “As a band, Shopping is and will always be completely opposed to any form of oppression and discrimination, including homophobia, transphobia, colonialism and racism. We stand firmly against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. For these reasons, and in harmony with the principles of the nonviolent, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, we affirm our solidarity with the Palestinian call for BDS,” the band said, in a statement that appeared on the Artists for Palestine UK website.

    Last year, eight individual performers and groups canceled their appearances at the Pop-Kultur event over Israeli Embassy funding, the website noted. …

    “Israel seeks associations with international festivals, such as Pop-Kultur Berlin, to art-wash its image abroad in the explicit attempt to distract attention from its crimes against Palestinians,” PACBI said in a statement. “For a supposedly progressive festival to accept sponsorship from a decades-old regime of oppression and apartheid like Israel’s is unethical and hypocritical, to say the least.”

    In response, the Pop-Kultur festival stated: “We are not intimidated by boycotts. If there are artists who don’t want to perform at our festival because we receive travel and accommodation support from the Israeli Embassy in Berlin, we very much regret that.”

    It added: “However, the boycott, the refusal to perform, is not our decision. We are always open to engaging in constructive dialogue. We believe that discourse and dialogue are the only means through which to deal with conflicts in this world. We as cultural workers have a special responsibility for establishing networks across borders, even when we disagree.””

    • just on June 12, 2018, 7:58 pm

      “Israeli Orchestra Uninvited From Spanish City Amid BDS Push …

      A Spanish municipality disinvited an Israeli orchestra and ballet group from its autumn cultural program.

      Oviedo, saying “Israeli organizations are not wanted” in its premises, canceled the participation of the Netanya Chamber Orchestra and the ballet group last week, the news site IsraelValley reported.

      In 2016, an administrative court in the northern Spanish city ruled that a motion in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, against Israel that was passed early that year by the City Council of Langreo, also in the north, was discriminatory and must be scrapped.

      Last month, the City Council of Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, passed a motion declaring a boycott of Israel and Valencia a “Israeli apartheid-free zone.” A local fraction of the far-left Podemos, Spain’s third-largest party, promoted the motion. …”

      Happy BDS dance over here… D

  12. DaBakr on June 13, 2018, 11:23 pm

    If it was a massive kick as mag asserted it was our own damn selves kicking our own butts. In this case our illustrious minister of sports and culture decided that a friendly match, that had been months in the making, paid for Ann’s scheduled for Haifa-in other words2-wear fine deal suddenly felt the need to have the match moved to the hottest and most contested part of the conflict. Still burning from the opening of the embassy the PA leadership didn’t just want to relay complaints to FIFA. They wanted to really fuck up the israeli accomplishment which turned into obnoxious gloating by certain govt officials. Sure, there will be games I Jerusalem but now? And the audacity of regev announcing she’d be taking a selfie with Messi in Jerusalem. Uh….. Guess not.

    The only thing I would take issue with is not that a few Argentine players voiced Palestinian sympathies (argentina had the largest community of Palestinians I believe). This issue is the foreign minister of Argentina along with the coach and owner were quoted as saying the terroristic threats the players got were’worse then Isis’ . That innocent family members harassed or threatened, the images of blood soaked jerseys and written treats to burn. Even if some players publicly supported the cancel we will never truly know wether it was triggered by fear or sympathy. And rust the players had to give up and comfort their innocent families does not indicate that the cancellation was any great political victory. But in Israel/palestine o perception counts for a lot so….. Not a shining moment for Israel and Regev should be put on leave for a while.

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