Turning a Celebrated Athlete into a Pawn in Israel’s Game

July 24 2019

On Sunday, on the occasion of his induction into the Hall of Fame, the beloved baseball player Mariano Rivera was subjected to an “exposé” by one Robert Silverman in the Daily Beast revealing that “over the past three years, [Rivera has] served at the pleasure of a racist president, taken part in thinly veiled propaganda on behalf of a far-right government in Israel, and gotten chummy with outright bigots and apocalyptic loons.” After briefly praising Rivera’s skill as a pitcher, and then describing—with more than a whiff of contempt—his evangelical Christian faith, Silverman devotes nearly 1,000 words of a 2,400-word article to Rivera’s positive attitude toward the Jewish state; much of the rest is spent cataloguing other athletes who have visited Israel. Liel Leibovitz comments:

Silverman is hardly . . . honest when it comes to Israel. A few months before the pitcher’s visit to the Jewish state, Silverman notes, “Israeli soldiers killed at least 60 Palestinian protesters in Gaza and injured thousands more.” As the piece progresses, we hear more about the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of the wicked Israelis, but not a lick by way of context: nothing about Hamas, nothing about incendiary kites, nothing about rockets terrorizing children in Sderot and elsewhere.

Silverman is highly selective with his facts, presenting only the handful that fit his narrative, but . . . he goes a step further and wraps his entire argument in the gauze of conspiracy—repeatedly referring to “conscious efforts to keep this information about [Rivera’s] private life under wraps.” So secretive, in fact, was Rivera, that only those privileged few with access to rare channels of information—like USA Today and Twitter—could learn about his visit to Israel or his service on President Trump’s opioid committee.

But, unwittingly or otherwise, Silverman has given us a glance of American journalism’s new normal. . . . No editor involved in the publishing process took issue with Silverman’s failure to present a narrative that even remotely resembles the truth, or cared to ask whether the piece’s lead art, [subsequently replaced]—showing Rivera standing in the center of an Israeli flag, a pawn in the Zionist game—mightn’t be considered blatantly anti-Semitic.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Christian Zionism, Evangelical Christianity, Media

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine