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A dirty job but someone has to do it: Susie Kneedler has been following the Tennis Channel’s unending praise of Shahar Peer, the Israeli tennis star. The latest:

More from the Hasbara–no, Tennis–Channel.  French Open Tonight re-ran the rhapsody to Shahar Peer, then interviewed Peer herself, who chatted with Bill Macatee about her transition from tennis "counter-puncher" to aggressor, then looked forward to her next match against Serena Williams.  How often will Monday’s contest tempt Tennis Channel to rerun its "apolitical" history?  Macatee reverted to the urgent, "going back to Auschwitz with your grandmother…must have been an unbelievable experience."  Of course Peer assented, and the camera cut between her smiling face and scenes from the now-familiar screed. 

"Yeah, it was…a trip that I will never forget, and it’s much more–… I like playing tennis…, but it’s much more, I think, than being on the court…."

We get it: "Never forget" the truth that no competition–however challenging–can compare to the unimaginable peril of Nazi death-camps. 

Macatee reminded Peer about "the controversy in Dubai.  How has your life changed since that?"  Peer attested that "this year I did get the visa [from UAE] and it was really good, not only for tennis, for me playing there, but to show that we should not involve any politics in sport." 

Peer congratulated herself that, "a lot of people did support me and also Tennis Channel did support me last year.  And I got a lot of support around the world and I think that was very important and that is why I was able to play this year." (Never forget, Tennis Channel is owned by Ken Solomon, a guest of AIPAC last year.)

Asked which players inspired her, Peer named, among others, Monica Seles.  Seles survived being stabbed during a German tennis match.  Macatee inquired whether tennis is popular in Israel;  Peer replied, "it depends when [Israelis] have good players….I hope we’re going to get another." Perhaps Peer will support efforts to nurture Israeli-Palestinian citizens into champions?  But kids in Gaza and the West Bank may be out of luck.  If Israel embargoes necessities as harmless as "fishing rods, musical instruments, writing implements, notebooks, newspapers, toys," []," how can tennis racquets be allowed?  Those new strings are pretty lethal.   

Macatee pontificated that "sports have traditionally broken down barriers in the world of international relations, but sometimes political differences spill over into the field of play.  Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, found herself in the middle of an age-old dispute that had very little to do with tennis.  Her stand on this volatile issue would not only elevate her game, but change the way international tennis is conducted."   Cue testimonial.  Afterward, Macatee gushed, "Quite a story: the 23-year-old Israeli making a difference representing her country and her sport," then showed Peer’s victory, cast as one "underdog" over another.  Macatee’s abstractions conveniently omit Israeli’s attack on Gaza only a month before the Dubai flap. 

The Tennis Channel’s obsession with Peer’s past distracts from sport to boost sympathy for one player, and her country–conflating Israel alternately with tradition (Judaism) and modernity (skyscrapers). Peer’s father Dovic tells us that he hopes "Shahar being denied a visa…in 2009…had nothing to do with religion, meaning Muslims against Jews."  Do Israel’s boosters really want to equate a visa denial with universal "forces of injustice" and Nazism?  In tennis and in politics, such smashes can ricochet.   

Susie Kneedler

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