A government minister has branded the decision to shut a library for displaying an exhibition on Israeli-Palestinian football as ‘disgraceful’.

Labour MP Ian Austin asked Wales Minister Alun Cairns what discussions he had with those “responsible for the provision of library services, about the appalling decision to remove [Cardiff City Library’s] exhibition about Israeli and Palestinian people playing football together”.

Austin asked whether Cairns thought “an exhibition like that brings people together and furthers knowledge, which is what libraries are supposed to be about”.

Cairns acknowledged it was a “disgraceful decision and act by Cardiff City Council”. Cardiff City Council said at the time “there was potential for a large demonstration outside, which could disrupt access to the building and the services we offer.”

Cardiff City Council said at the time “there was potential for a large demonstration outside.. which could disrupt access to the building and the services we offer.”

Jewish community figures criticised the decision to shut the exhibition which had previously been displayed, with no incident, at a cultural centre in Derby, and at the entrance hall to The Guardian in London.

Eitan Na’eh, Charge d’affaires of the Israeli embassy in London, branded those who forced the exhibition’s closure “thugs”, whilst another Welsh MP Guto Bebb, described the decision as “despicable”. He told Jewish News: “This shames our capital city.  Those who target Israel simply cannot abide the fact that most Palestinians and Israelis want to live in peace.  This attack on freedom of expression is censoring the truth in order to allow the narrow hate-filled agenda of the small number of anti Israel to remain unchallenged.”

A statement from Stop the War Coalition, issued prior to the exhibition being closed, said: “Israel uses sport as a way to present itself as a ‘normal’ European state, to whitewash its racism against the Palestinians, just as South Africa did under apartheid.”