Israeli tennis star Andy Ram played a Davis Cup match in a nearly empty stadium in MalmÃ¶, Sweden, last Saturday. Swedish authorities decided to close the event to the public, because of fears that they would not be able to protect the Swedish and Israeli athletes from anti-Israel protesters intent on disrupting the match.
Israel defeated Sweden to advance to the Davis Cup quarterfinals, while outside the stadium rock-throwing protesters clashed with riot police. In a commentary for Ynet, the online site of the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot, Ram described the scene in Sweden:
“The feelings within the Israel team are very grim. All the innocence that prompted us to play tennis has disappeared, and this match, which was supposed to be a beautiful moment of sports, has become completely worthless. Nothing here is reminiscent of the Davis Cup; what we have is a war atmosphere, tension and the feeling that something very bad may happen at any moment.
“I have never seen the kind of security that we are receiving here; not even in Dubai, where I played a few weeks ago. At any given moment, we are surrounded by police vehicles, undercover police officers, and antiterror forces. Every morning, they take us from the hotel to the stadium via another route, through an underground parking lot, with part of the ride being undertaken in armored vehicles.”
The recent war in Gaza has damaged Israel’s international reputation and fueled vociferous protests around the world. You can find numerous videos of anti-Israel protests that are replete with the crudest anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic vitriol. Of course, one can legitimately criticize Israeli government policies. And individuals are free to demonstrate in favor of a Palestinian state, or for the concept of a democratic secular state spanning Israel and the Palestinian territories. There is a freewheeling discussion of Middle East issues in Israel, so there is no reason for Americans to be reticent about offering their opinions.
It does give one pause, however, to watch a video uploaded to YouTube of a Dec. 30, 2008, anti-Israel demonstration in Florida, which shows a woman holding a sign that reads: NUKE ISRAEL. Further, the woman improvises upon the popular “Free, free Palestine” chant heard at these kinds of demonstrations. “Nuke, nuke Israel,” she shouts.
Another woman in the crowd screams at a small group of pro-Israel counterdemonstrators that are on a sidewalk across the busy street: “Murderers! Go back to the ovens!”
The uncivil dialogue that is taking place in Fort Lauderdale and other American cities apparently is migrating to college campuses, according to the JTA story by Ben Harris, which appears in this week’s paper.
John Moghtader, 21, a Cal junior from Los Altos, Calif., and the president of Tikvah, a pro-Israel student group, tells Harris, regarding the intimidation from anti-Israel students: “It’s not just about Israel, it’s just about Judaism in general a lot of the time.”
In the aftermath of the war of Gaza, simmering anti-Israel sentiments are boiling over in an upsurge of vile anti-Semitic screeds. Again, a casual scan of YouTube videos and talkbacks to Web stories reveals that there are a lot of haters in cyberspace. (It’s probably not worthwhile to respond to the rantings of these neo-Nazis on the ’net.)
If progress is to be made in forging a sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace, there needs to be compromise on all sides. Replicating the Israeli-Hamas conflict on city streets and college campuses is a recipe for continued hopelessness. Rather, we need to modulate the discourse, listen to another, and see each other as human beings.
— Mordecai Specktor