Outrage at Cardiff ban on photos of Arab-Jewish football match

A photograph from the exhibition banned by Cardiff City Council.

Leaders of Britain's Jewish communities have condemned the decision to cancel an exhibition about an Arab-Jewish football match because of fears of protests.

The Board of Deputies of British Jewish and leaders of the Welsh Jewish communities described the Cardiff City Council boycott as an "own goal". They said they were "utterly dismayed" by the decision.

The exhibition, which has already been shown at the Guardian offices in London, illustrates a model of peaceful coexistence, showing Muslims, Jews and Christians happily playing football together. It shows there is much more to relations between the different religious communities in the region than the narrative of conflict that usually dominates the headlines.

Photographers Gad Salner and Vadim Tarasov conceived the idea as a way of illustrating how sport can transcend politics. The match was photographed in Israel.

The exhibition had been planned to go on at Cardiff Central Library as part of the run-up to the Wales versus Israel European Championship qualifier on Sunday.

Stanley Soffa, president of the South Wales Jewish Representative Council, said: "This is yet another example of where poisonous and divisive anti-Israel activists show how 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."

Sheila Gewolb, vice-president of the Board of Deputies and representative of Cardiff United Synagogue on the national Jewish representative body, said: "The City Council's capitulation on this issue is a serious 'own goal'. The proud internationalist image of Cardiff will be severely damaged and this does nothing to help the peace process.

"What message does it send to Arab and Jewish Israelis who want to make progress and make peace? It says, 'Cardiff is not with you. Cardiff prefers division and conflict'. Many people at Cardiff synagogues, who pray every day for peace, will wonder why we bother paying council tax if the City Council is just going to engage in counter-productive stunts of this kind. We will be calling for an urgent discussion with the Council to ask them to explain this decision."

Yiftah Curiel, of 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."

Dr Jane Clements, director of the Council of Christians and Jews, said: "The CCJ regrets the decision made by officers of the City of Cardiff Council to remove the photographic exhibition of pictures that demonstrate a positive model of co-existence between Muslims, Jews and Christians through their shared love of football. Notwithstanding the political reality of the conflict, these important initiatives on the ground demonstrate ways in which individuals can connect with one another and transcend their differences, creating greater understanding and hope for the future."

A council spokesman said: "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."