Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Even Thought I Want To Cheer For Them

Organized Jewish athleticism has always been a bit controversial for me.  From a nationalist perspective I can appreciate and take pride in the sporting accomplishments of my fellow Jews.  There's an instinctive feeling of joy in seeing one of "ours" standing on the podium and knowing that "we" can compete with "them" and win.
From a religious perspective, however, there is a rejection of that feeling of one of insecurity.  If the purpose of the Jewish nation is to be a moral light unto the world then why does winning a gold at the Olympics or an international basketball tournament matter?  In fact, isn't the desire to fit in, to compete with the gentile world and beat them at their own games a negative turn away from that divinely appointed mission?
That why, when Israeli basketball teams come to North America to play NBA teams I don't necessarily jump for joy or seek out tickets.  Jews running around in tank tops and shorts isn't my idea of a Jewish social activity.  I don't identify with young girls dressed in little more than beach apparel skating or jumping around to the beat of some horrid new-wave music or classical piece I've never heard before.  And a soccer team playing in a European tournament and insisting on playing its game on Rosh HaShanah even after the Gentile organizers offered to change the date out of religious sensitivity is a surefire way to make me feel a disconnect.
Now I accept that I am imposing my standards on these athletes.  For many Jewish athletes the idea that they're in the game as identifiable Jews is a testament to their religion and nationality.  I just don't see it that way, especially at this year's Olympics.
As we all well know this year is the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre during which a dozen Israeli athletes were killed by Arab terrorists for the crime of being Jewish.  Since that time the International Olympic Committee has done everything it can to minimize the event in history.  And I mean literally from the moment it happened consider the Games didn't miss a bit but kept on going.  Since then every attempt to make the IOC recognize the event in some way other than a cursory acknowledgement that it happened has been rebuffed.  Because it's the fortieth anniversary efforts to encourage a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies in London (the one in England) were especially strong but to no avail.  Other than a meaningless moment of silence held in the athletes' village well before the Games began and attended by almost no one, the IOC has been unwilling to budge on its insistence that it will not "politicize" the games despite ample precedents to show that they have done similar things for far lesser tragedies before.
In a way I can understand the IOC's decision.  Murphy's Law teaches us that he who shouts louder has the floor.  The Arab world has a lot louder voice than the Jewish one in the international forum.  If we are denied a moment of silence there will be some awkward squawking about it.  If the moment was granted, one could only imagine the screaming that would have ensued about validating the "racist Zionist regime".  Perhaps the IOC had the nightmare vision that during the moment of silence many of the Arab teams would start shouting "Free Palestine!" or "God is a mouse!" (Hamevin yavin) much to the embarrassment of the international community.
It is also fitting that London should be the site of this reject.  Britain has a long and deep history of Jew-hatred.  After all, this is the Allied country that did the most to help ensure no Jews would escape from the Holocaust and still has accepted no responsibility for its vile behaviour until this day.  No, the combination of England and the IOC assured that no moment of silence would happen.
But this is where my discomfort with the current Israeli Olympic team comes in.  That they participated in the Opening Ceremonies on Shabbos, well I'm pretty sure none of them is shomer mitzvos and to expect them to decline the opportunity to march because of religious requirements would be unreasonable.  That they participated in sports on Tisha B'Av is also understandable.  Most of them probably have no idea about the special nature of the day.  It's not like it's Yom HaZikaron or anything like that.
No, my discomfort comes from the Israeli team marching on Friday night for a different reason.  By refusing to acknowledge the tragedy that occured in 1972, by refusing to admit that they were completely dismissive and insensitive by not cancelling the Games at the time or at least delaying them for a few days and by their continued refusal to grant a moment of silence for the victims when they have done so for others, the IOC is sending a clear message to the Jewish world: we don't care about you.  We can't outright ban you for participating but we can tell you straight out we don't think your lives or your honour matter.
That's why I think the Israeli team should have announced that they would not participate in the Opening Ceremonies.  By marching in on schedule, by smiling and waving to the crowds and the IOC executive that think their blood is not as red as Gentile blood, by acting like they are a member of the family of nations that is convinced that we are the adopted bastard child, they implied that their desire to be accepted by "the Goyim" is stronger than their desire to stand by the memory of the slaughtered Munich athletes, is stronger than their sense of honour at being repeated insulted by the assembled crowd.  
By participating, the Israeli team sent out a message about its opinion of its Jewishness while groveling for acceptance before its enemies.  There is nothing to take pride in that.


Adam Zur said...

One should do sports and not watch them.

Anonymous said...

The same issue with Daf Yomi

Anonymous said...

There is a youtube video of a gentleman named Paul Bigley who is quite upset about this. He mistakes a gemara in his discussion , nevertheless its embarrassing that an akum is more aware than the Israelis.

jrs said...

GI said: "Jews running around in tank tops and shorts isn't my idea of a Jewish social activity."

Point taken, but then, neither is some Jewish kid standing around in 90-degree-plus weather, wearing mismatched, unpressed dark pants & jacket, with a giant black hat perched idiotically on the back of his head so his pompadour can rise up unobstructed in front… neither is that an inherently Jewish activity.

Nor is there anything definitively Jewish about being a stooped, scrawny, aesthetically oblivious person whose very posture screams nebbish.

The difference is, many people actually think the latter two are exemplary Jewish behavior---the kind that 'sets us apart from the goyim'.

But I do see your points about the Israelis' utter lack of self-respect in this context. Talk about uniquely Jewish behavior. Sad.