‘Times’ sympathizes with Israeli athlete hurt by international politics, but not the 100s of Palestinian athletes in a similar situation

Felson writes:
 Harvey Araton used his New York Times sports column today to document the plight of Shahar Peer, an Israeli tennis player who was denied a visa by the United Arab Emirates that would have allowed her to compete in this week's Barclay's Dubai Tennis Championships – a $2 million tournament that is a part of the women's pro tour.
It's a good case. Peer's exclusion violates the spirit of international competition, which holds the promise of bringing together athletes from nations with severe political differences and setting a better example for the world.

Araton calls for the women's and men's tours to end their affiliation with Dubai. To ensure this, he seems to advocate a consumer boycott of the sport's sponsors, and he appeals to Jews to lead it:

For one thing, tennis does big business in American markets — think New York, Los Angeles and Miami — with large Jewish populations. The men, who follow the women to Dubai next week, may want to remember that, too, along with the companies that sponsor these events.

My problem with this column is that it's too easy. Araton writes for a newspaper that has a large audience of readers who are profoundly and reflexively sympathetic to Israel and conditioned to view the Arab and Islamic worlds with suspicion, if not hostility. This column caters to their biases; it's the same old enemy irrationally persecuting our friend the Israeli.

A more worthwhile column would have highlighted the Peer injustice– as I said, she clearly should be allowed to compete– but not just left things there. If it's wrong for the U.A.E. to deny an Israeli athlete the opportunity to compete, isn't it just as wrong that the Israeli government routinely refuses to allow Palestinian athletes to leave the Occupied Territories for international competition? Or that Israel's supporters have campaigned to deny Palestinian athletes the right to compete under a Palestinian flag at the Olympics? And if a boycott of professional tennis sponsors is in order if they don't cancel their future tournaments in Dubai, shouldn't a similar boycott of companies that do business with Israel be in order?

Araton is absolutely right that Peer is a victim of international politics. But so are hundreds of Palestinian athletes, year in and year out. Israel is guilty of exactly the behavior for which Araton rightly condemns the U.A.E. Araton had an opportunity to challenge his readers, to force them to confront some of their assumptions on a complicated subject. Instead, he reinforced their knee-jerk assumptions and gave them further license to view Israel as nothing but a victim.

Posted in BDS, Beyondoweiss, Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East

{ 7 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Kaveh says:

    i agree that countries should not allow their political beliefs affect sporting events they host , but all coutries let their geopolitical or racists ideas influcance their dicsion making ( U.S. boycutting 1980 olympics and now united arab emirates denying shahar visa to compete in tennis tournoment) , because all politicians are two year old kids in man's or womens's body.

  2. Chris Berel says:


  3. ahmed says:

    I like how Araton makes it a point to call her a "Jewish player on an Israeli passport" and sees no problem assuming that American Jews will automatically sympathize with peer, only because she is Jewish and Israeli. But if you conflate Jews and Israel, you're an anti-Semite.

  4. Citizen says:

    amhed, that is SOP in the USA. If American Jews congregate around a TV to watch a sports event, you can bet your life they will point out which players are of Jewish extraction in part or whole. In contrast, If a non-Jewish American points out the same thing, that American is showing undue focus, is therefore an
    anti-semite. Same in the political arena. It's hilarious. Point out how many Jews are key in the federal reserve system, or how many of Shrub-Chaney's neocon mentors are Jews, or which of Obama's key appointments in the Wall Street arena, or Middle East foreign policy arena, and you are–ipso facto,
    an anti-semite. In contrast, if you go the Jewish papers here, or the Israeli papers, they dwell on the subject forever.

    Compare: In the USA nothing is made in the medias of the overwhelming preponderance of African Americans in various sports. Sports is one thing, politics quite another. Yes?

  5. Chris Berel says:

    It would seem that the denial is due to the identity of the player as a Jew. I would have loved to seen what they would have done had the player been a muslim from Israel.

    Surely Americans are killing Muslims in Iraq. But every American was let through.

  6. Citizen says:

    You are right Chris. We should never have gone into Iraq. We should get out ASAP. It would be great
    if anyone or any entity or group was powerful enough to bar American tennis players. That would get
    some much needed attention from the hoards of sports nuts in the USA. They might even begin to
    think they should devote more time to where their government has been taking them for so long while they've been spending their free time from work watching a stick and a ball.

  7. Chris Frechette says:

    Geez, if they had a gold medal for playing victim, the Arab countries would stagger under the weight of medals.