On March 13, The New York Times Sports section ran a long article about an Israeli basketball player under the title, “In Israel, an Arab Chooses Baskets Over Goals.” Karam Mashour of Nazareth plays for the team Bnei Herzliya. Reporter Sam Borden made this claim for him:
In a league full of Israeli Jews, top Europeans and talented Americans, Mashour is the only player of Arab heritage. Perhaps more pointedly, in a country where more than a fifth of the eight million residents are Arab, Mashour is one of only two to play in the top division in more than decade.
This is both inaccurate and obnoxious. The Times is stating baldly that “Arabs” cannot be Jews, when the truth is that many, many Jews are Arabs. They speak Arabic, or they are of Mizrahi heritage, coming from Arab countries. Israeli Mizrahi Jews are said to number about 3 million and are the largest ethnic group in Israel. That’s why Israeli Jewish names often strike American Jews as foreign. Their ancestors have Arab heritage.
The New York Times article’s premise that Arabs cannot be Jews thereby accepts a Zionist definition of Jewish nationality. “Arab” is generally a linguistic/cultural definition: it refers to people who speak Arabic. The article barely mentions Palestinians, but this is the actual distinction at work here: Mashour is a Palestinian, not a Jew.
There are actually many basketball stars of Arab heritage, including Doron Jamchi and Oded Katash. Thanks to our friend Ronnie Barkan for the info; here’s a list of all-time scorers. Many of them are Arab Jews.
The New York Times article only uses the word “Palestinian” twice, to refer to the Palestinian territories– when Palestinians inside Israel prefer to call themselves Palestinians, not Arabs. No, the article accepts the Israeli distinction, between Jews and Arabs:
According to Hagay Segal, a communications official with the Israel Basketball Association, about 10 percent of the 35,000 registered basketball players in the country are Arab.
No one doubts that there are sectarian divisions in the Middle East. But the New York Times is espousing Zionist dogma when it states that Jews cannot be Arabs.