Note: The following piece was originally published in the Daily Mail on 4 September 2015
An exhibition of photographs of Muslims, Jews and Christians playing football peacefully seems like an unlikely target of a boycott.
But that is just what happened when Cardiff Council hosted the show at the local library – because the pictures had been taken in Israel.
In advance of the football match between Wales and Israel on Sunday, Cardiff Library agreed to host ‘Jewish-Arab football: diversity and coexistence through lower-league football’.
The photographs do not focus on top players but instead the lower leagues
But a spokesperson for Cardiff Council said that ‘following a complaint’, the exhibition had been taken down less than 24 hours after it opened.
‘The Council is aware there are protests planned around the Wales Israel game at the weekend and this was taken into consideration,’ the spokesperson said.
‘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.’
Judith Woodman, leader of the opposition at Cardiff Council, said that she was ‘appalled’ by the Council’s ‘shameful’ censorship and demanded an inquiry into how the decision was made.
‘Sport is non-political. We live in a democracy and have freedom of speech. By this action Cardiff Council have totally disregarded this,’ she said.
‘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 added that ‘there were protests in Cardiff for the Nato summit, but that wasn’t cancelled or censored’.
The exhibition has already shown elsewhere in the UK, including at the Guardian headquarters
The project, created by photographers Gad Salner and Vadim Tarasov, records how football can bring rival communities together. It has previously been displayed at the Guardian offices.
The photography project focuses on lower-league football throughout Israel, emphasising how Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities come together through the beautiful game.
One example is the Betar Nordia Football Club in Jerusalem, a small, fan-owned club that promotes diversity and sportsmanship, while opposing violence and racism in football. The club’s Jewish participants play alongside their Arab Muslim and Christian colleagues.
‘From forgotten Arab villages in the north to dusty Jewish neighborhoods in the south, we visit places where the seemingly ever-present tension between cultures evaporates, and where diversity is embraced, encouraged and celebrated,’ said the photographers in a statement.
Yiftah Curiel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy, said: ‘This is a boycott against peace and coexistence, in line with the destructive and belligerent aims of the movement to delegitimise Israel.’
The European Championship Qualifiers match between Wales and Israel will take place at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday.
Israeli clubs began taking part in European club competitions in 1991 and its football association became full UEFA members in 1994 – having famously beaten France in a 1993 World Cup qualifier.
Israel’s team includes defender Tal Ben Haim, who plays alongside Welsh international Simon Church at Charlton Athletic FC.
Anti-Israel demonstrations are planned to coincide with the match.