Culture, Global, Israel, Politics

Tennis Menace

Those not up on their Scandinavian political/ sports news may have missed a current shitstorm in Sweden over a Davis Cup tennis match, played today, in which the Swedish national team meets the Israeli national team in the Swedish city of Malmö. The Israeli aspect is what has people up in arms.

Assorted political groups in Sweden, including, but not limited to, radical leftists, mainstream leftists, Palestinian solidarity groups and neo-nazis (!) tried to stop the game.

Here I should add, for context, that boycotting tennis games is something of a tradition on the Swedish (extraparliamentary) Left. Similar protests where held against matches with athletes from Pinochet’s Chile and apartheid Rhodesia. In the end, the Davis Cup match in Malmö is being played
— without an audience.

Now, I am the first to admit there is plenty of need to speak out against Israeli policies, especially in the wake of recent events in Gaza. However I can’t help but feel that A.) stopping sports events is not the right forum for such protest. B.) The protests are based less on a dislike for Israel’s actions and more on Israel being a Jewish state and a pet target for condemnation in some areas of the European left.

There have been plenty of voices in this debate in Swedish press. I won’t bore Jewschool readers by quoting them all. One of the most succinct, I think, is that of Bassem Nasr of the Swedish Centrist Party. Nasr writes that, criticism of Israel aside, he believes the game should be played and that once politicians start boycotting sports events they are on very thin ice.

“If we begin to single out countries for bans from Swedish sports events, it would only be fair to develop a ratings system for national crimes. Perhaps nations can get 3 points for torture, 8 for occupation, and 7 for attacking others — this could be almost like a sport in and of itself. The only other alternative is that a parliamental majority makes these decisions, in which case we would have a situation where the election of prime minister would decide if Sweden is to play pingpong with the U.S. or Cuba. Neither alternative is particularly palatable.”

What do you think? Fair protest, crazy Scandinavians, or anti-Semitism by another name?

Here’s a link to a good Swedish report on the whole mess, for the one a half Swedish-speaking Jewschool readers out there.

33 thoughts on “Tennis Menace

  1. this article, like many others about the Boycott Divestment Sanctions Campaign against the Israeli occupation goes off with a lot of demagogy.. I don’t know who are the Nazis you mentioned that try to stop the match, I only do know that the radical left groups in Sweden (and migrants as well naturaly) are being attacked very violently by Nazis in the last few years and that Anti-Fascism is a big part of the activity of the people who also go and demonstrate against Israeli Apartheid. From your article one could understand that there is a common red-brown front against the Jews… and this is a very disgusting accusation to make…
    If this all just an antisemitic action, i am sure you could find the quatations where this have been shown, and put them in the article. but you chose not to bring any antisemitic quatations of the organizers against the game (maybe there are some, it wouldn’t really surprise me), instead you just choose to raise the suspect of a Antisemitism against every action that goes against the Israeli politics. this demagogic and also dangoures if we honestly want to discuss Antisemitism in the left and in the palestine solidarity movement…

  2. “stopping sports events is not the right forum for such protest.”
    Yeah, people should just come to terms the the fact that their government and media pay little attention to their position.
    “The protests are based less on a dislike for Israel’s actions and more on Israel being a Jewish state and a pet target for condemnation in some areas of the European left.”
    Sure, like those of us who protested South African apartheid were mostly leftist anti-Caucasian bigots.

  3. Are occupying countries obligated to give citizenship rights to the people they occupy? If so, Israel and America are both Apartheid states, since Iraqis and Palestinians weren’t allowed to vote in the recent American and Israeli elections respectively. If not, neither are Apartheid states.
    Protesting Apartheid where it exists, like South Africa which had numerous laws based on race, is to be encouraged. But anyone who protests “Apartheid” in a country with zero race based laws is either misinformed or deliberately lying.

  4. This is sad, but it doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy. Calls to boycott Israeli universities have been going around for years–not sure what the status is now. In the U.S. some organization called the “U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel” recently hosted a vigil protesting a tour by an Israeli ballet company.
    These witch-hunts to boycott anything and everything associated with Israel may not be anti-Semitic, but at least they do not seem wise. Boycotts work when they are undertaken with a specific (achievable) goal in mind, are intelligently targetted, and widely followed. But this seems mainly motivated to inflict pain. It is a dangerous wager to declare war on people (athletes, artists, academics) who could have been the best advocates for change.
    And my vote is that it is also anti-Semitic. Why not also boycott American artists, scientists, and sports teams, given U.S. support for Israel? I cannot imagine anything the U.S. government could do, ever, that would result in the kind of hatred directed against individual Americans that is now directed against individual Israelis.

  5. “Are occupying countries obligated to give citizenship rights to the people they occupy?”
    No, but there are many other obligations for occupying powers Israel has been flagrantly violating for decades, effectively establishing an apartheid regime in the Palestinian territories. You can find information on the issue all over the place if you care to look, but I get the impression you don’t have any interest in doing anything of the sort.
    And Anna, if you care to look into the details of the BDS movement against South African apartheid, you will see how absurd your arguments are. Put simply, it isn’t a witch hunt, it isn’t intended to to inflict pain, and it isn’t a matter of hatred, The goal is simply bring a peaceful resolution to this conflict by persuading Israel to conform with international law. You can read up on the movement here:
    One notable recent victory is the UK’s backing out of leasing suite for their embassy from an Israel tycoon involved in the settlement industry and human rights violations though his diamond mining operations in Africa:

  6. nomad-
    what country is it that has no “race based laws” that you’re referring to? both the countries you referenced, the us and israel, have race based laws. So while America has race based laws, it is not an example of apartheid. Apartheid is not having race based laws, rather it is when one ethnic or racial group rules separates itself from another by legal and/or military means. It is the Afrrikaans word for “apartness” it’s in the word Apart(heid)-hood…

  7. kyleb – that bdsmovement website confirms Anna’s point – nowhere are there clearly stated demands as to what they want Israel to do before ending their boycott. Do they intend to boycott Israel until it stops existing?
    If Israel has been negligent in upholding the rights of the occupied, that must of course be corrected. Ultimately a viable, independent Palestinian state needs to be created in the context of a peace agreement. But I get the feeling that isn’t what the anti-Israel crowd wants; they want Palestine to replace Israel. Hence the Apartheid twist, calculated to delegitimize Israel in its entirety.
    Justin – of course Apartheid was based on race. They stuck pencils into people’s hair to see if it was curly enough to label them ‘black’. Their laws forbade blacks from voting. If you think there are any laws like that in the US or Israel, please provide a citation.
    kyleb’s website calls the West Bank fence and the US-Mexico border fence “Apartheid walls”. Yet those walls do not separate ethnic groups, they separate citizens from non-citizens. There are Arabs with Israeli citizenship and Latinos with American citizenship. They have exactly the same rights as other citizens. Sweden also has a border to keep out non EU citizens. That is simply how nation states work. The fact that most EU citizens are white and most of those being kept out are non-white does not make it Apartheid.

  8. Kyleb, respectfully, I still don’t understand how boycotting artists and athletes whose only crime is their citizenship is going to acheive “a peaceful resolution to this conflict”, as you say. Boycotting “a tycoon involved in the settlement industry” is obviously different, and (without knowing anything else about it) I would say, commendable. Do you really not see the difference?
    Shall we also boycott Israeli human rights organizations? And American organizations that have partners in Israel (i.e., almost all Jewish organizations)? What about Jewschool? A number of the contributors and commenters are Israeli, and many others have spent time there. I’m not trying to be silly, I really want to know where the line is drawn. (I would personally draw it after “settlement tycoon” and before “Israeli tennis player”, but you would clearly draw it somewhere else, so where?)
    Justin–I’ll betray my ignorance and ask–what do you mean by “America has race-based laws”?

  9. Nomad, if you check a dictionary you will see that apartheid isn’t necessarily based on race. Also, if you had bothered to read the BDS movement’s FAQ, you would see their goal is simply to persuade Israel to conform to international law. Your willful ignorance of such, along with that of Israel’s gross violations of the rights of Palestinians, and your existential hyperbole, all exemplify need for employing BDS to bring a peaceful resolution to this conflict. I would prefer no such persuasive methods were needed, but the preceding decades have proven otherwise.
    And Anna, of course there is no reason to boycott Israeli individuals or organisations who clearly support Palestinians rights. The whole point of the BDS movement is to persuade more Israelis, and eventually Israel as a state, to do exactly that. Doing this requires boycotting state sponsored activities, athletic, cultural included; as doing otherwise obscures the illegitimacy of the tycoons and other ideologues activities in violation of Palestinians rights. Again, if you bother to look into the BDS campaigns against South African apartheid, you will see that the methods employed there were no different, and you can find much more detailed explanations on the BDS movement’s site.
    As for Justin’s comments about race-based laws in the US, I am guessing he is referring to those of affirmative action, though that is a rather absurd comparison to make here.

  10. Anna and kyleb-
    in terms of race based laws in the US, I’m not referring to affirmative action. I’m mainly talking about the drug laws and how they relate to financial aid for college students. In the US, if one is arrested with drugs (no matter what variety or what amount) they are banned from being eligible for federal aid for college. In America, an overwhelming majority of arrests are non-violent drug crimes, and an overwhelming majority of those individuals incarcerated under such pretenses are young, black men. While on the surface, this may not seem like a race based law it surely is influenced by racial relations in the States. Capital punishment laws are also heavily influenced by race. There are more, but I think my point is made.
    nomad-I didn’t say that Apartheid wasn’t based on race; I said that one does not need to have what you called “race based laws” to be Apartheid, and likewise, having “race based laws” does not automatically make a nation practice Apartheid. The fence between Mexico and the US is a)incomplete and b)a real border, so that is just an erroneous comparison. The separation barrier, however, were it to be on Israel’s side of the green line, would be the same. But it’s not, it’s on Palestine’s side of the green line, and it separates not only terrorists from Israeli civilians but also separates farmers from their fields and families from each other. I’m not saying it is an “apartheid” wall, but it MAY be… I really don’t know. But like genocide (as per the discussion that ensued from Aryeh’s recent post), the semantic argument seems to stifle the weight of what is actually being said.

  11. Kyleb, you say now you do not support a boycott against Israelis who “clearly support Palestinian rights”. But that’s just my point. The tennis player and ballet director were not boycotted because of their political opinions, they were boycotted because they are Israeli. Where on the bdsmovement website does it specify which Israelis are legitimate targets and which aren’t? From my reading, it implies that all athletes, artists and academic institutions are to be targetted. The director of the dance company that was a target, Ohad Naharin, is apparently a peacenik and HAS been a public critic of his government. But apparently that is not sufficient.
    And I’m sorry you think I’m being willfully ignorant. I’m not. I’ve read the website, and my objections remain. The website asserts things like “BDS are morally sound and effective means of struggle that challenge the world to force Israeli compliance with international law; they therefore serve the cause of ending oppression and establishing a just and sustainable peace.” Sorry, but saying so doesn’t make it so. I don’t consider it acceptable to punish the innocent in order to get at the guilty. And it’s usually terrible policy. This is the fuel of war.

  12. Anna, I didn’t suggest you were being willfully ignorant, that comment was directed at Nomad. It was him asking the goal of the boycott which can be easily found in their FAQ as you quoted is which I took issue with, while your confusion is understandable. However, no, the director being a peacenik doesn’t change the fact that presenting Israel in a positive light provides cover for Israel’s violations of international law to continue. In other words, regardless of their individual political positions, they are enabling those who are working against resolving this conflict. Now if they wanted to call themselves Israelis for Palestinian Rights Ballet” or something along those lines, I’d happily go see them preform.
    Anna, I didn’t suggest you were being willfully ignorant, that comment was directed at Nomad. It was him asking the goal of the boycott which can be easily found in their FAQ as you quoted is which I took issue with, while your confusion is understandable. However, no, the director being a peacenik doesn’t change the fact that presenting Israel in a positive light provides cover for Israel’s violations of international law to continue. Regardless of their individual political positions, they are enabling those who are working against resolving this conflict. Now if they wanted to call themselves Israelis for Palestinian Rights Ballet” or something along those lines, I’d happily go see them preform.
    And Justin, what you are talking about there is not a matter of legislation, but rather one of enforcement. I agree it is a shameful blight on US society, but it is a far cry from injustice of the apartheid regime Israel conducts in the Palestinian territories. Comparing apples to oranges has far more merit.

  13. kyleb, I disagree with you regarding it being a matter of legislation or enforcement. The laws taking away financial aid are recent, those who wrote them were well aware of whose financial aid was going to be taken away. I’m not comparing the two at all; The opposite, I’m saying that a society like America can have unjust race based laws and NOT be apartheid.

  14. “The laws taking away financial aid are recent, those who wrote them were well aware of whose financial aid was going to be taken away.”
    Only because the laws are enforced by bigots, not because the bigotry is inherent to the laws.
    On the other hand, in the Palestinian territories, Palestinians live under Israeli martial law while Israeli are under separate civil law, and such legal discrimination is a cornerstone of apartheid.

  15. Kyleb, one of the tragedies of the nazi holocaust (and anti-semitism in general) is that many Israelis (and Jews) think that the world is largely anti-semitic. They are suspicious of world opinion because they believe the world is out to destroy them. If your boycott has any effect at all, it will be to support this perspective and convince even more to believe it. In the internal debate about anti-semitism and Israel’s security, this boycott gives fodder to those who argue that the rest of the world will always hate Israel and so Israel shouldn’t listen to the rest of the world. And I do not wish to give support to that perspective.

  16. It´s not antisemitic to protest against what Israel has done, and that´s what 99 % of the protests are about. You´re making yourself stupid by saying you don´t know what the protests are against – what happened in Gaza recently. Protests and bojcots don´t always have a clear goal, it´s sometimes enough just to protest against, you don´t need a finished solution to understand that what Israel has done in is a crime against humanity.
    The Israelis did a “good” effort also to make the match as nationalistic as possible by waving flags, all sports in general are very nationalistic. The protests are aimed not at individuals but at the ´symbols for Israel that these sportsmen are.
    If those unspecified accusations, mostly propaganda spred, continue about antisemitism it´s gonna lead to antisemitism, since you eradicate the lines to guide and judge by. People are not gonna react anymore when theres really a need to see the antisemitism, it´s gonna be like the tale about the boy who screams one to many times that the wolfe is coming.

  17. If you could bring yourself to support he boycott, it would help to others to overcome that delusion.
    On a side note, the it was largely the efforts of Zionist which promoted the rise of Judophobia in the pre-WWII era, with many people taking the Zionists word that they represented the Jews of the world despite the fact that the vast majority of Jews at the time opposed the movement. As Herzl wrote in his diary “The anti-Semites shall be our best friends”.

  18. While I’d love to improve the situation in the middle east, I could not in good conscience refuse to watch Israeli dancers who didn’t call themselves “Israeli dancers for Palestinian rights”, unless I also refused to watch Palestinian dancers who didn’t call themselves “Palestinian dancers for peace with Israelis”.
    But if I did that it might cause apoplectic fits in some people, and I’d hate to be responsible for anyone’s death by outrage.

  19. kyleb: With your suggestion that antisemitism (and the Holocaust?) is the result of a Zionist conspiracy, I believe your argument has passed into the realm of antisemitic delusion. Brutal and violent “Judophobia” existed in Europe for about at least 500 years before Zionism arose as a late-19th-century nationalist movement. Your statement contradicts the perspective of mainstream historians. It also contradicts reason.
    What’s so hard about acknowledging that Jews have been both victims and perpetrators? Until you can wrap your head around that, you’re only going to be adding fuel to the fire.

  20. Anna-
    While the general or simple nature of kyleb’s claim may seem inaccurate, he’s not completely wrong. Zionists were in much contact with the Third Reich and it can be seen in numerous cases after Zionists came to a country in Europe to spread Jewish nationalism, anti-Semitic nationalism increased. That being said, you are 110% correct that violent anti-Semitism existed in Europe long before the Zionist movement. BUT, to say that kyleb’s statements are anti-Semitic delusions, well, that’s just not helpful and is the same conversation stopper that Jews love to throw out. I don’t think anything I’ve ever read kyleb write says that Jews were not victims. I think he’s simply trying to share the idea that maybe Zionism has not been all good for the Jewish people.

  21. I thank you Justin, and I hope others here can come to understand me as well as you do.
    Nomad, your argument completely ignores the fact that Israel is in a position of overwhelming dominance over Palestinians. Were it Palestinians engaging in a brutal occupation and colonization of defenseless Israelis, surely you wouldn’t be compelled to such absurd attempts at equivocation.
    Anna, please note my use of the word “rise” were it seems you have imaginatively substituted “beginning” or something along that sort. I have no trouble acknowledging the long history of indefensible persecution of Jews, and could type on for days in detail about it, but doing so would only indulge your compulsion to ignore the point I was making. What makes it so difficult for you to acknowledge my point?

  22. kyleb and Justin: wait, so you are claiming that Nazism was the deliberate creation of Zionists? Why have I not learned about this before? Have the Zionists censored this information from history books, encyclopedias, and museums?
    If you’re just saying that political Zionism wasn’t good for the Jews, and anti-semitism increased because of it, sure, I think that’s a completely reasonable statement. (Where did I say that I thought political Zionism was good for the Jews?) However, I don’t think Zionism is the root of all evil. Rather, I think it was/is a nationalistic movement that had various consequences, and some of those consequences were bad.
    It’s true, to a certain extent, that political Zionism stayed in business as a movement because of persecution of the Jews. But claiming that is evidence that Zionists deliberately CAUSED persecution of the Jews to any significant extent is about like saying that Hamas deliberately caused persecution of the Palestinians or that the ANC deliberately caused Apartheid…(actually, there are those who say that.)
    Kyleb, what point of yours do you want me to acknowledge? Regarding the “cultural and academic boycott”, I already outlined the reasons why I feel it is immoral, AND reasons I feel it won’t work. I’m not going to “acknowledge” otherwise because you have not convinced me otherwise. Since I haven’t convinced you either, we will have to continue to disagree.

  23. Anna, I was hopping you could acknowledge the fact that the efforts of Zionist promoted the rise of Judophobia in the pre-WWII era, but with your compulsion towards the ridiculous canards like the one you started your post with, I suppose I am expecting more from you than you are capable of.

  24. Anna- you’re just being silly and seem to be choosing to ignore the merit of what was stated. No one claimed that Zionism was responsible for the Nazi party. I brought up their communication because it seems a bit unethical for leading Zionists to have communicated with officials in the Third Reich to advocate the deportation of Jews in the hopes that they’d emigrate to Palestine. You are turning this into a black and white argument where we are saying Zionism=bad, everything else=good. And that’s just not what we’re saying. Simply put, the Jewish nationalist endeavor has not been too good for the Jews, ultimately. No one is making the ridiculous claims you want to say we’re making. I don’t understand why you made the leap to the preposterous…

  25. ok, if you want me to acknowledge something so different from what I learned in history class, you have to give some references. I did spend some time, after your post, googling things like “Zionism caused Nazism” and “Zionist Nazi collaboration”. And oh boy, I did get a bunch of hits…but none of the ones I waded through really seemed legit, to me. For instance, there is a website called, that claims to have evidence of an extensive Nazi-Zionist collaboration. But their references include prominently the “Institute for Historical Review”, a Holocaust-denial website. So that’s a pretty big strike against them. There wasn’t anything that I could find about this collaboration on the Wikipedia pages for the Holocaust, or Zionism. So that makes me wonder why it isn’t known by mainstream historians.
    Obviously the Nazis had contact with some Zionist leaders, just as they had with other representatives of the Jewish community. Furthermore, prior to the Final Solution, Zionists and Nazis shared one goal, which was the emigration of Jews from Europe. So it would not be surprising if there were attempts by either party to negotiate this. And that you can find a few comments in writings by prominent Zionists saying that antisemitism would help their cause does not seem surprising either. I’m sure you could find similar writings in the diaries of certain Palestinian resistance leaders. I think it’s a HUGE leap to go from there to claiming that major Zionist leaders had a collaboration with the Nazis to spread anti-semitism prior to the war. I’d believe it, if you showed me the appropriate sources. But you can’t expect me to swallow something that goes against everything I’ve ever known just because a stranger claims it on a blog.
    I also don’t really see why you brought this up here. My claim, above, was that the Jewish community will tend to see the “cultural and academic” boycott in a certain light because of the history of antisemitism. And, best I can tell, you haven’t disputed that.

  26. Justin, sorry I didn’t see your comment. I actually do think that is what kyleb is saying–“it was largely the efforts of Zionist which promoted the rise of Judophobia in the pre-WWII era”. But kyleb is free to correct me if I am misreading.

  27. kyleb, it was largely the efforts of Palestinian terrorists which promoted the rise of anti-Palestinian sentiment in Israel and elsewhere during the Intifada, with many people taking their word that they represented the Palestinians despite the fact that many Palestinians opposed the murder of civilians.
    Getting Israel to pull out of the territories without also getting rid of the terrorism will not lead to peace.

  28. Also, kyleb, I apologize (and feel silly) if I have misread your words. It wasn’t deliberate. If you just want me to acknowledge that political Zionism has not been a net good for the Jewish people, I’ve already done so and will very happily do so again. I object to political Zionism for the same reason I object to all nationalistic movements–they seem inherently racist, frequently lead to tragedy, and, well, they just rub me the wrong way. A second reason is that I think Judaism is supposed to be about G-d, and most secular Zionists didn’t believe in G-d–they substituted worship of national identity for worship of G-d. So if that’s all you are getting at, I believe we are in agreement.

  29. Anna, I never took any offense from your statements, but rather I get the impression that you misunderstandings were inspired by a subconscious aversion to the points I’ve made here. Regardless, I do thank you for your apology and for coming to understand my position better in seeing that I share your distaste for nationalism, and for all the reasons you mention.
    That said, I hope you might take more time to consider my comments, as well as the information on I wasn’t familiar with the Institute for Historical Review before you mention them, but searching JAZ’s website I only found one reference too them, and checking IHR’s “about us” page I found:
    “The IHR is sometimes mischaracterized as a “Holocaust denial” organization. This smear is completely at variance with the facts. The Institute does not “deny the Holocaust.” Every responsible scholar of twentieth century history acknowledges the great catastrophe that befell European Jewry during World War II.”
    So again I am led to believe you are instinctively dismissing others rather than consciously considering the information they present. As for more detail on the subject of Nazi-Zionist collaboration, I recommend 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis by Lenni Brenner, and The Transfer Agreement by Edwin Black. On the latter it is important to find the 1984 edition, as to contains considerable evidence which was edited out of later editions under pressure from Zionist groups.

  30. Kyleb, please spend a little more time checking out the IHR website. Articles include:
    “Bishop Williamson and ‘Holocaust Denial’: Why the uproar”
    “A Straight Look at the Jewish lobby”
    “The Elusive Six Million”
    “Holocaust Remembrance Strengthens Jewish-Zionist power”
    “Hitler’s Place in History”
    “Jesse Owens: Myth and Reality”
    “A Prominent False Witness: Elie Wiesel” get the picture. Sorry, but you need to be a little more critical of sources you find online.

  31. Anna, I am not citing IHR as a source for anything, and again searching JAZ I can only find them motioning them once, and only as a secondary source at that. As I stated above, I didn’t even know of the organization until you mentioned them. Anyway, reading the first article you list I come upon the phrase “World War II genocide of Europe’s Jews.” How is that anything less than an acknowledgement of the Holocaust? Regardless, the sources I did recommended to you are not simply random articles I’ve found online, but well documented historical accounts.
    I hope you might reconsider your compulsion to tell me what to do and rather heed your advice yourself.

  32. kyleb, I fear that we do not really have any common ground of logic or historical understanding. I have nothing more to say about this.

  33. Anna, we clearly share common ground in both logic and historical understanding, as evidenced by my compete agreement with your position on nationalism. Best I can tell, your compulsion to disparage that now, and most of your disagreements with me in general, was/is based on misunderstandings of what I say along with ill-conceived speculation. I don’t dismiss your opinions or distrust your intentions, and I would appreciate it if you could bring yourself to reciprocate in kind.

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