Column for JN Oct 31 2017
There are some situations that are, effectively, an open goal, just begging to be highlighted.
Such a one is, of course, the lamentable behaviour of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the International Judo Federation Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi. Despite urgings from the Federation to the UAE organisers, the Israeli participants were not permitted to wear their country of origin flag on their clothing, nor to fly it when they won medals, nor to have their national anthem played.
“Security concerns” were cited as the reason for forcing the Israelis to compete with “IJF” (International Judo Federation) on their clothes, although for one brief moment I thought they could have pretended that stood for “International Jewish Fighters”.
What I simply don’t get is the attitude of all the other countries whose teams took part in this tournament. Russia inevitably, was top of the league table, but Britain’s judokas won a medal in each category of gold, silver and bronze, against Israel’s one gold and four bronzes.
So where was Britain in denouncing Abu Dhabi’s blanket refusal to recognise Israel’s sporting prowess? What about “being good sports”? Was this an “even playing field”?
Have we heard a word from Sports Secretary Karen Bradley and Minister Tracey Crouch? Did you even know they existed?
No, me neither. Just a deafening silence from the supposed home of fairness and democracy, while the dignified gold medallist Tal Flicker got to sing Hatikvah by himself.
Now to my second open goal of the week: the completely justified line taken by Israeli diplomats about the Balfour Declaration and the upcoming celebratory dates: 29 November 2017, the 70th anniversary of the United Nations vote to accept the Partition Plan that led to the Declaration of Independence, and next year’s 70th Yom Ha’atzmaut anniversary.
We hear repeatedly an invoking of Israel’s mission as a “light unto the nations”, and there is every reason to accept that mission when you read about Israel’s numerous rescue delegations in disaster areas, from the Philippines to Hawaii, from earthquakes to flooded regions.
I get it, I really do. That’s one of the reasons behind Israel’s existence, to offer the hand of friendship and aid wherever possible. I’ve just finished helping to make a film about the incredible medical treatment Israel has offered to Syrians on its northern border. What was particularly striking was that even the most cynical Israeli couldn’t denounce this project, because what matters is the help given, not the reasons behind it.
So what if there was once an ulterior motive, to make Israel look good? The young Syrian man whose face has been rebuilt by an Israeli surgeon doesn’t care about the motivation, only that he can once again face the world. And perhaps the bonus is that on his return to Syria, he will tell his family and friends, and they won’t hate Israel so much.
All of which is why I don’t understand why Israel doesn’t do something to offer humanitarian aid to those on its southern border, the wretched Gazans. I don’t care about the political side of this equation, the ordinary Gazans are suffering and Israel has the capacity to help them. Why not undercut the hatred and misery, and do the right thing?
Like I said, it’s an open goal.