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Propaganda on the Tennis Channel during rain delay at the French Open

Israel/Palestine
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What conversations we yet need.  Yesterday morning during a rain delay the Tennis Channel turned into the Israel lobby.  Anchor Ted Robinson praised "Shahar Peer’s reputation for standing up versus the forces of injustice," segueing to a nine-minute video glorifying the Israeli tennis player and Israel while condemning Arabs and Muslims.  The film equated the latter with Nazis in their inexplicable hostility to innocent, "modern" "normal" Israelis and Jews. Roll tape:

Beautiful footage of Peer and her lovely family cooking gorgeous dinner, celebrating Shabbat, family, Jewish and Israeli traditions.  Father Dovic Peer says to camera: Shahar went through a "normal life, school, her army service"; juxtaposed with baby photo, school picture of Shahar in row of girls in formal dresses, Peer offering military salute. "We’re a close family," she tells us, "it’s a very cultural thing, because in Israel families are really close." Slow motion shots of delectable food, the handsome family hugging and kissing, pictures of mother Aliza Peer embracing all kids together.

Ring ominous music: Shots of 2009 NYT headline, "ISRAELI TENNIS PLAYER IS REFUSED VISA TO PLAY IN DUBAI EVENT"; masked Arab demonstrations depicted as violent; fire; tire flung into air; frowning old woman in keffiyeh holding up rifle.  Shahar Peer asks: "…I don’t see why a player cannot go [to Dubai] because she’s or he’s Israeli or Jewish or Muslim or Christian, and for me not to get a visa to Dubai was for me a really hard thing." 

No mention of all the visas Israel denies, the pain of Palestinians and others refused travel to, from, or throughout illegally occupied Palestine and Israel.

Dovic Peer: "Shahar standing up to her right and making it clear that this cannot happen, she opened the door for other players that have any problem…that sports will not mix with politics whatsoever."

Silence about Palestinians imprisoned in Gaza and the West Bank, not allowed abroad even to study–let alone to make millions playing professional sports. Nothing about the three Palestinian national footballers killed in the Israeli 2008-9 bombardment of Gaza.

Cut to photo of police dragging protester.  Peer: "After having all these demonstrations against me…"   Shot of homemade sign:  "Boycott Israel/end Israeli apar–" (the rest of the word cut off). "…And I find the good moments of my career playing in these situations." In Dubai, Peer reached the semi-finals for the first time.

Switch to Shahar Peer boarding propellor plane for pilgrimage to Auschwitz with her mother and darling grandmother Yuliana Eckstein.

Eckstein announces melodiously through translation, "I’m very happy and that’s why I’m doing this….; I had said that I’d never travel to Auschwitz…I’m doing it for Shahar….and maybe for the coming generation." Peer affirms, "It was very exciting for me and especially seeing my grandma next to me and telling me all the stories when we were passing by the places…where she was for half a year….you cannot get what they were going through, and she was telling me, like, terrible stories."  Footage of Peer and her grandmother walking in a blissfully sad yet triumphant "March of the Living," whose banner and many Israeli flags are carried by demonstrators depicted as peacefully heroic–in contrast to the alien, menacing Arab protesters.

Cut to Eckstein’s memories of Auschwitz: her terrible meeting with Joseph Mengele, the doctor of atrocities; lightning montage with lights flashing, Nazi symbols, barbed wire, archived pictures and footage, ghastly music. Peer’s grandmother tells us about horror and loss: the murder of her beloved family.  Segue to Shahar Peer helping to light a "torch in honor of the second and third generation of the Jewish people [not those who died]", then to Shahar leaning against a red Nazi boxcar, lastly to a frame of Peer with her grandmother and mother all holding an Israeli flag, as the antidote to the past.

Snap back to happy music. Peer: "[T]here is, like, so much to see in Israel."  Film of modern blue train–in contrast to red cattle cars at Auschwitz. Skyscrapers, people on pristine beach.  Dovic Peer assures us, "It’s a normal, Western country."

Switch to Shahar Peer playing tennis in fast motion; cheerful tunes.  Slow motion shots of Peer’s feet in tennis shoes with gold Reebok logo.  Peer confides her dream of winning a grand slam, " I dream about it at night…dreams might come true." 

Return to Ted Robinson rhapsodizing: "Wonderful story for Shahar Peer, who’s given herself that chance to dream again–pushed herself back into the top 20,…in the second round of the French Open." 
 
Then former tennis pros Leif Shiras and Justin Gimelstob enthuse. "Such a compelling story about Shahar Peer," gushes Shiras. Gimelstob chimes in, "Shahar Peer: what a courageous effort…to play as well as she did this year, getting to the semifinal.  She’s a true competitor and a worthy ambassador to [sic] Israel."
 
If sports don’t  mix with politics whatsoever, who composed this paean to a foreign country and its number-one player? The Likud government could weave no more obsequious tribute.
 
By the way, AIPAC honored Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon last year for boycotting the Dubai tournament after the Peer affair.
 
 
 
Susie Kneedler
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