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OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 09-06-2018 12:22

Footballers in the firing line

The squad received plausible threats from individuals who would like to see the Jewish state expunged from the face of the earth.

Most Western governments advise their citizens to take cover when Islamist terrorists go on a rampage and to be extra careful if they are in a foreign country in which attacks are frequent. That is what the Argentine Football Association (AFA) did when it cancelled the friendly match it had scheduled with Israel after Lionel Messi and other members of the World Cup squad received plausible threats from individuals who would dearly like to see the Jewish State, along with most of its inhabitants, expunged from the face of the earth.

As was to be expected, the decision upset the Israelis who, not that long ago, successfully hosted three stages of the Giro di Italia, which started in Jerusalem, in which top cyclists from around the world, including many riding for Arab-sponsored teams, were far more exposed to attacks by terrorists than the footballers would have been.

Thanks in large measure to the savagery of Jihadists whose atrocities show the world just what the Israelis are up against, of late efforts by devotees of the Palestinian cause to make the Jewish State an international pariah, shunned by all right-thinking men and women, have been having little effect. The Giro and minor episodes such as the recent Israeli victory in the ludicrous Eurovision song contest, suggest that more and more people are accepting it as a valuable member of the “international community” rather than, as the Islamists and their allies would have us believe, a colonial outpost doomed to share the fate of those Crusader kingdoms that for a while held parts of the Holy Land. By using threats to get Argentina to call off the friendly with Israel, Palestinian militants revived memories of the Munich Olympics, when they murdered 11 Israeli athletes.

Some foes of Israel, among them the Iranian ayatollahs and the leaders of organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, hate Jews for what may be described as ‘Koranic’ reasons, but most infidel supporters of the Palestinians insist that opposing Israel’s policies does not make them anti-Semitic. They would be more convincing if they protested with equal fervour whenever Arab governments mistreated the Palestinians, but they never do so. Far more have been killed by their fellow Arabs than by Israelis without anyone in the West even raising an eyebrow.

The individuals who go on and on about Israel’s alleged cruelty towards its mortal enemies are also indifferent to the plight of the Kurds, the Yazidis and others in the Middle East, let alone the many African peoples who are being slaughtered. No doubt their attitude would change radically if the perpetrators of such atrocities happened to be Jewish.

Had it not been for a combination of Arab nationalism, Islamic supremacism and anti-Semitism, the “Palestinian problem” that keeps diplomats busy and, what surely matters most, the purses of rich countries wide open, would have been solved well over half a century ago. Over the years, dozens of peoples have been displaced because for one reason or another they could not get on with their neighbours. That is what happened when, almost a century ago, Greece and Turkey finally agreed to “exchange populations”: the criteria employed were religious, with Muslims going east even if their mother tongue was Greek and Turkish-speaking Christians getting sent west.

On an even greater scale, after World War II, what was then Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries were “ethnically cleansed” of Germans whose forefathers had lived there for many centuries. Fortunately for all concerned, those expelled from their ancestral homelands were not confined in refugee camps set up near the new borders and told to demand the right for they themselves and their future offspring to return, backing up their claims by resorting to terrorism.

Instead, Germany took them all in, unlike the Arab countries which even today refuse to grant full citizenship to their Palestinian “brothers”; they prefer to use them for propaganda purposes by making the most of Western willingness to feel guilty for whatever was done by previous generations. As such emotional blackmail does not work with the Chinese and Russians, hardly anybody bothers to complain when the former put thousands of Uighurs in “re-education camps” or the latter reduce towns in the Caucasus or Syria to rubble.

As for the millions of Jews who were expelled from Muslim countries when Israel declared independence, few take them into account. Though the pioneer Zionists did come from Europe and, on the whole, were well-disposed towards Muslims, about half of today’s population today is of Mizrahi – that is, Middle Eastern – origin. Hardened by personal experience or folk memories, they favour a far tougher approach toward anyone who attacks them.

Western politicians like to see the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as a straightforward territorial dispute which could be solved by swapping “land for peace.” To them, that makes sense, but to pious Muslims the belief that once a place has been part of their community’s domains there can be no going back is far more important. That is why all the Islamic countries, including ones as remote from the Middle East as Malaysia and Indonesia, are prone to see Israel as a mortal enemy, and make the most of their numerical strength in the United Nations and other bodies to denounce the Jewish State’s behaviour.

A few days ago, Iran’s supreme leader, the cleric Ali Khamenei, fondly described Israel as a “malignant cancerous tumour in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated,” something he said “is possible and will happen.” Such outpourings of hate may hearten the more fanatical foes of the world’s only Jewish State, but in a perverse way they help it by reminding not only critics of the current United States administration but also some Europeans that, given a chance, its enemies would do to the Israelis what Islamic State fanatics do to those unfortunate enough to fall into their hands.

In any event, the rulers of some Arab countries, among them Saudi Arabia, are well aware that Iran is far more dangerous to them, or to “international peace”, than Israel could ever be. They would certainly not object should Israel, whose military prowess they have learned to respect, do whatever its leaders think is needed to forestall an Iranian onslaught.

James Neilson

James Neilson

Former editor of the Buenos Aires Herald (1979-1986).


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