Jewish community figures and local opposition councillors have condemned Cardiff City Council over the decision to remove a photography exhibition sponsored by the Israeli embassy from the city’s library due to fears of protests from pro-Palestinian groups ahead of Sunday’s football match between Wales and Israel.
The council removed the exhibition, which included photographs of Arab-Jewish football matches and was intended to highlight the unifying nature of football, fewer than 24 hours after it went on display in Cardiff Central Library.
Local Liberal Democrat councillor Judith Woodman told The Guardian that the Labour-controlled council’s action were shameful. “I can’t believe what has happened,” Woodman said. “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.”
A City of Cardiff Council spokesperson told Newsweek: “The council received a complaint and was made aware there was potential for a large demonstration outside the Central Library Hub in relation to the exhibition, which could disrupt access to the building and the services we offer. For this reason a decision was made by officers to remove the exhibition for operational reasons.”
“From an operational perspective it is important that our buildings are open and accessible to all and it is important that at no time should we be in a position where any exhibition could lead visitors to suppose that the council could be seen to be displaying a political bias.”
Figures in the Welsh Jewish community have also condemned the decision. According to the Jewish Chronicle, president of the South Wales Jewish Representative Council, Stanley Soffa, described the council’s move as “yet another example of poisonous and divisive anti-Israel activists showing their irrational hatred.
“Cardiff City Council should be supporting efforts to bring reconciliation between Arab and Jewish Israelis, not supporting the schemes of the boycott bullies to drive them apart.”
Cardiff Stop the War Coalition, which is one of a number of groups planning to protest, says it supports the removal of the exhibition.
The group’s secretary, Adam Johannes, told The Guardian: “We welcome Cardiff council’s decision to cancel an exhibition sponsored by the Israeli embassy that whitewashes the reality of football in the Middle East. Israel wages war on Palestinian football. How can a country be allowed to compete in international matches when it prevents another FIFA member playing football freely?”
According to The Guardian, Israeli-based artist Gad Salner, who co-created the exhibition alongside colleague Vadim Tarasov, said this is the first time that the photographs have received negative reception.
“It’s sad that it has come to this,” Salner said. “It’s a clich, but politics and football should not be mixed.”