Cardiff Central Library withdraws football exhibition celebrating Jewish-Arab co-existence


Cardiff Central Library has scrapped an exhibition of photos celebrating Jewish-Arab co-existence through football in Israel.

The library confirmed that the exhibition "Low football - Jewish-Arab football: diversity and co-existence through lower-league football,” which opened on Wednesday, has been removed.

The display, sponsored by the Israeli embassy, was set up to coincide with Israel’s European Championship qualifying match against Wales in Cardiff on Sunday, and was due to remain in place for a week.

It is understood that the library may have come under pressure from anti-Israel groups.

A spokesperson for the Labour-run City of Cardiff Council said: “Following a complaint it was decided to review the material and the exhibit was withdrawn.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.

“Our libraries are buildings which promote free speech, but it was felt that running this exhibition could lead visitors to suppose that the Council was displaying bias. This is of course not the case.”

A spokesman for the embassy said the move was “outrageous. This is an exhibition promoting co-existence through football. Jews and Arabs playing football together.

“I don’t think the library is the main issue. The main issue is the capitulation to elements who have only an agenda of hatred.”

Judith Woodman, leader of the opposition at Cardiff Council, said she was appalled by the Council's decision which she described as shameful censorship, and demanded an inquiry into how it was made.

She told the Daily Mail: "Sport is non-political. We live in a democracy and have freedom of speech. By this action Cardiff Council have totally disregarded this.

"I intend to take matters further, not least with the Wales Audit Office. As a senior member of this shambolic administration I am aghast at what I have learnt this evening.

"It is a disgraceful reflection on our city."

She pointed out that "there were protests in Cardiff for the Nato summit, but that wasn’t cancelled or censored".

Anti-Israel demonstrations, organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Stop the War Coalition, are expected ahead of Sunday's match in Cardiff.

Stop the War Coalition said: "Israel uses sport as a way to present itself as a 'normal' European state. It uses sport to whitewash its racism against the Palestinians, just as South Africa did under apartheid."

The Zionist Federation (ZF) and grassroots groups North West Friends of Israel and Sussex Friends of Israel have organised transport to the game for activists who want to support Israel.

A ZF spokesman said it would be taking 200 fans, with the majority planning to participate in a "pre-match celebration of Israel".

"Low Football" was created by two friends, Gad Salner and Vadim Tarasov, who travelled to footballs grounds across Israel to record the places "where the seemingly ever-present tension between cultures evaporates, and where diversity is embraced, encouraged and celebrated”.

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