Monday, June 1, 2015

The NYT, FIFA, and Bibi

Bibi Netanyahu and embattled FIFA chief Sepp Blatter in contest
for best mugging before the cameras.
Soccer (or as the rest of the planet calls it, football) is a sport that I pay little attention to, even less than gridiron football.  But the New York Times ran an article on June 1, 2015, NETANYAHU CALLS INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM AN EFFORT TO 'DELEGITIMIZE ISRAEL', that linked the ongoing FIFA debacle, BDS, and the pogroms against Palestinians nicely and is worth discussing from a media perspective, especially considering that everything in the professional sports world is based around television.
So where to begin?
It would seem that, given that the United Nations has become a dead end, the various Palestinian leaders decided to go about it via the next best thing, sports.  This is a novel approach, especially considering that the major political factions in a given country tend to literally fight it out at the stadium, with sometimes deadly results, and also because a large number of FIFA-aligned teams hail from Latin America, who did lodge a not-insignificant level of disgust last year at the UN over the Gaza brutality.  And while the Right oftentimes makes a significant showing in the stands, the leadership of FIFA is not brain dead and cannot be totally oblivious to the issues at hand, especially since the upper echelons have become diversified by an influx of African and Asian personalities.
So the Palestinians filed a complaint against the Israelis tied to a variety of abuses, including allowing five squads from the Settlements, travel restrictions on Arab players, and even shooting athletes in the feet.  And it seemed, for just a few moments, that there was a possibility that this could indeed make some moves forward, until Israel apparently weaseled its way out, as Richard Silverstein over at Tikun Olam explains.  And then simultaneously, just as things are getting interesting, a major scandal hits FIFA and arrests are made on May 27, a scandal that includes, surprisingly enough, Israeli banks.  On May 29, the Palestine Football Association drops the complaint.
In the story by the Times, the following paragraph especially caught my eye:
The founding document of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement includes a reference to Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes inside Israel proper, and some of its leaders call for a single state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Most Israeli Jews, as well as many outside experts, see either such a one-state solution or the return of all refugees and their descendants as a demographic death warrant for Israel as a Jewish state, which is how it was founded in 1948.
Author Stephen King, whose memoir ON WRITING is perhaps one of my favorite books, once said 'The New York Times is the New York Post for smart people.'  When it comes to all things Israel-Palestine, that holds especially true, with coverage that would make William Randolph Hearst call for a source check.  But at the same time, they have a real point here.  Mr. Silverstein, in another piece, devotes some time to trying to break down the BDS critique.  But no matter how many somersaults he tries, the reality is that the BDS movement intentionally misreads the law regarding right of return as pertaining to descendants.  The Right of Return law is only pertinent to those people directly ethnically cleansed from a location, not the descendants.  Now, obviously people made refugees more recently by the settlement construction and other incursions retain that right, but the original refugees, now approaching the seventieth anniversary of their displacement, are not going to live forever.  It's obvious that the Knesset has taken a wait-it-out approach here that has worked.
I'm personally not inclined to conspiracy theories and alleging that there is a direct connection between the FIFA indictment and the Palestinian complaint, professional sporting leagues are dens of vice and nepotism.  But at the same time, the timing could not be more perfect.

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