A council in Wales has been accused Friday of censorship for withdrawing an Israeli soccer photography exhibition intended to show that soccer can foster tolerance and communication between diverse communities in Israel.
According to the Guardian, Cardiff city council buckled to pressure from anti-Israel activists and failed to ensure the separation of sport and politics following its controversial decision.
Anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations are planned to take place when the Israeli national soccer team arrives in the Welsh capital to play Wales in a European Championship qualifier on Sunday.
The decision to remove the Israeli embassy-sponsored exhibition, entitled ‘Low football - Jewish-Arab football: diversity and co-existence through lower-league football’, which opened at Cardiff central library earlier this week to coincide with the match, reportedly came after complaints from undisclosed sources were received.
Politicians, Jewish community leaders and the Israeli embassy have all slammed the directive ordered by the left-wing Labour Party-controlled council.
Cardiff city council’s opposition leader, Liberal Democrat councillor Judith Woodman, said she is appalled and described the move as shameful.
“I can’t believe what’s happened. Sport should be non-political. This is censorship. Cardiff council has led the way in diversity and community cohesion and in the past has not bowed to the minority who complain,” she told the Guardian.
“We live in a democracy and have freedom of speech. Cardiff council has totally disregarded this. People can protest to show their views. That is democracy. To censor something is harking back to bad days.”
Also speaking to the Guardian, the Israeli embassy’s chargé d’affaires, Eitan Na’eh, said: “Tolerance towards intolerance is cowardice, and this is the unfortunate sight we witnessed in Cardiff, in the face of vile threats by a small group of thugs.”
Inspired by the lower soccer leagues in England, ’Low football’ was created by Gad Salner and Vadim Tarasov, who visited Arab villages in the north of Israel, and dusty Jewish neighbourhoods in the south, to document the country’s diversity and tolerance.
One of the soccer clubs photographed for the exhibition is Betar Nordia F.C. in Jerusalem. The club’s Jewish participants reportedly play harmoniously alongside their Arab Muslim and Christian colleagues.
Commenting on the council’s apparent censorship of the event - a decision made at officer level and not, apparently, by an elected councillor - a council spokesperson told WalesOnline: “Following a complaint it was decided to review the material and the exhibit was withdrawn. The council is aware there are protests planned around the Wales-Israel game at the weekend and this was taken into consideration.”
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