The Cancellation of a Soccer Match Isn’t a Victory for BDS

June 14 2018

Last week, Argentina’s national soccer team announced that it would not be participating in a friendly match scheduled to take place in Jerusalem this weekend. The reason? Multiple death threats made against the Argentinian soccer players and their families. In response to the announcement, the former terrorist and current head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, has claimed a victory. Ben Cohen comments:

[I]s the decision of Argentina’s Football Association an uncomplicated victory for the BDS hate campaign targeting Israel? The answer is no, for several reasons. To begin with, nowhere in its announcement of the cancellation did Argentina’s national soccer authority declare political solidarity with the Palestinians, condemn Israel or, critically, endorse a ban on sporting links with Israeli teams. . . . The world’s soccer [teams] are not boycotting Israel, and in the four years since the last World Cup [competition], Israel has hosted national [teams] from Spain, Wales, Albania, Bosnia, Italy, Uruguay, and Cyprus for both competitive and friendly matches. All of these games have been played at different stadiums in Israel, among them the supposedly controversial Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem where the Argentina match was to have taken place.

[On the other side] is Rajoub himself. His campaign to have Israel expelled from FIFA (world soccer’s governing body), replete with vile anti-Semitic comparisons between the Jewish state and Nazi Germany, failed miserably in 2015. A more recent effort to have FIFA sanction Israel’s Football Association over West Bank-based teams competing in the country’s national league similarly petered out, leading Rajoub to accuse European soccer chiefs of feeling overly guilty about what “some European countries did to the Jews last century.” (He means the Shoah.)

So how is it that Rajoub is suddenly able to boast of a political victory handed to him, he says, by the Argentine captain and megastar Lionel Messi, perhaps the most revered soccer player in the world? . . . Rajoub issued a series of vulgar threats against Messi, promising, should the game go ahead, to burn Messi replica T-shirts, souvenir photos, and wall posters . . . on social media. Reports of death threats on social media against the Argentine players quickly followed.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Argentina, BDS, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Soccer

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy