Thursday, July 21, 2016

Do Jews Get to Play? Or, The NBA and "Palestine"

I was at the Jerusalem Consulate on Agron Street yesterday and met some friends:

That's the ZOA's Jeff Daube on the far left and Elie Pieprz and his daughter.

The occasion was the 240th anniversary of American independence.  It was belated, as Consul-General Daniel A. Blome said, in deference to the Ramadan fast month that ended two weeks ago.

One interesting bit we caught was the CG's words in his speech, at around 6:50, that he was honored that "friends from Gaza" were present.  Were they Palestinian Authority officials (I doubt that as officials were mentioned in the first section of his remarks).? Were they NGO officials?  Who?

I am not sure that all Gaza-based NGOs have some sort of Hamas affiliation.  Hamas is a designated FTO.  If I am not mistaken, when Hamas took over in 2007 the consulate was forced to suspend contacts with Gaza even though it is within their consular district.  I do not think that is still the case (see this item about "a new $50 million Gaza humanitarian support initiative – Envision Gaza 2020 – provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) West Bank and Gaza Mission in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS)...Envision Gaza 2020, will [also] increase employment opportunities through short-term jobs, paid internships, minor capital investments, and job training") but it would be interesting to know why they were unnamed.

And referring to Consulate outreach activities, I did mention to one of the consular staff persons that my particular problem is the seemingly total ignoring of the presence of Jews in Judea and Samaria (I jokingly referred to those areas as the "other Palestine" but I don't think he caught my sardonism) in programs of a social, sports, arts or educational program, event or seminar.

A new example is here, from last week:

JERUSALEM – Two professional American basketball players from the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA) are traveling July 13-16 through Jerusalem and the West Bank – a trip made possible by the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem. The delegation includes players Kelenna Azubuike and Temeka Johnson, as well as three NBA trainers and administrators, who will run clinics for several hundred Palestinian players and coaches.13663556_10208645326029492_130203524_oThis trip is part of a “sports diplomacy” initiative to connect Americans and Palestinians through a shared love of sports, in this case the sport of basketball. The Department of State’s #SportsUnited program sends American athletes around the world and also brings young international athletes to the United States. The trip is also part of NBA global outreach efforts through the #NBACares program, the league’s global social responsibility program that addresses important social issues in the United States and around the world.
A visit to a Jewish community, I am assuming, would be out of the question unlike this one to Shchem in February, although various other officers and officials have been out my way in Shiloh as well as a women's empowerment event.  I have been complaining about this situation for years (as here, and here and here in The Hill).  I really think it is a major failure of the State Department (to be clear, I am not in any way accusing local staff over the years in this matter of anything irregular).  Directives from Washington in this matter simply encourage extremist Arab assumptions: that no Jews will be around in a "Palestine" (and that is quite obvious regarding Gaza) since if the Consulate ignores or excludes Jews resident in Judea and Samaria now, why should we be there later?

Let me make it clear. I am all for sports being used to encourage all peoples to learn the value of rules, that there are limits, that a referee indeed can make a decision that will penalize you, that there are losers and winners.  I think Arab youth and coaches, besides the game of basketball, could apply those lessons to other fields of human endeavors.

I just don't see why the Consulate excludes, seemingly, the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria from its various programs as well as student grant and aid funds.  Having Jews and Arabs learn about basketball and play together could be a tremendous assist (pun?) to peace or at least coexistence or at least mutual tolerance.  That would be an amazing contribution to peace for it builds up trust, acceptance and non-rejection of the 'other'.  Peace cannot be forced.  It need be developed.

Peace is not a piece of paper.  Peace is actual life and relationships between peoples.


1 comment:

Ruth J. Lieberman said...

Absolutely right. When will the consular guys get it? Their bosses in the State Dept set the tone for racial discrimination against one type of resident in Judea or Samaria, while encouraging the other in a dangerous game.