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  • Argentina and Uruguay's national soccer teams are planning a “friendly” gamer in Israel on Nov. 18.

    Argentina and Uruguay's national soccer teams are planning a “friendly” gamer in Israel on Nov. 18. | Photo: BDS Movement

Published 5 November 2019

Last year, letters from Palestine, as well as a huge social media campaign and actions on the ground in Buenos Aires and Barcelona, convinced Argentina to cancel a friendly match planned in Jerusalem.

"Tell Argentina and Uruguay that there is nothing friendly about Israeli apartheid," is the message released Saturday by activists from the Pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement ahead of a scheduled friendly football match coming soon in Israel.

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As Argentina's and Uruguay's national soccer teams are planning a “friendly” gamer in Israel on Nov. 18, BDS campaigners are urging social media users to pressure Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to support Palestinian soccer players by canceling the game.

Last year, letters from Palestine, as well as a huge social media campaign and actions on the ground in Buenos Aires and Barcelona, convinced Argentina to cancel a friendly match planned in Jerusalem.

"Israel uses the prestige of championship teams like Argentina and Uruguay and star players Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to sports-wash its regime of oppression, apartheid, and occupation," stated the BDS movement in a communique, adding that they have "stopped this before. We can stop it again."

The Khadamat Rafah Football Club in Gaza wrote to both teams, urging them “not to allow the beautiful game to be used as cover for gross human rights violations.”

Khadamat Rafah overcame huge obstacles caused by Israel’s brutal 12-year siege and repeated military aggressions to win the 2019 Gaza League championship. In August, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said the ban is a violation of international law and of FIFA’s principles which say everyone has a “right to play.”

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The organization also said that Israel prevents footballers from Gaza to travel to West Bank due to security issues but actually this is “merely a political cover for the Israeli collective punishment practice against the Gaza strip.”

Palestine’s football chief said they have long lobbied FIFA to sanction Israel for what it says are its efforts to restrict the movement of Palestinian players. He slammed the withholding of permits and pledged to hold the game.

However, Israel’s severe restrictions - including the denial of the right to freedom of movement - prevented the team from playing in the Palestine Cup. Khadamat Rafah was set to play Balata FC in the West Bank but without the travel permits, the game is unlikely to take place as scheduled and will have to be delayed for the third time this year.

Rights groups in Argentina and Uruguay are also mobilizing on the ground to convince the teams to stand with Palestinian footballers in their struggle for the right to live and play.

In a similar campaign, over 200 Palestinian football clubs and sports organizations, supported by rights groups across the world, are calling for the boycott of German-based sports brand Puma to end its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association (IFA).

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