Monday, June 19, 2006

The Israghani

I recently declared my support for Ghana after one of their players waved the Israeli flag upon scoring a goal. The player, John Paintsil, plays professionally in Israel and wanted to declare his support for the Israeli fans who had supported him throughout his career. Now, Ghana is apologizing for the gesture due to outrage among Arab states.

I should be clear. There are people who can justifiably, if they choose, be outraged by Paintsil's action. They are the people of Ghana. If an American player waved a foreign flag, one could certainly question the appropriateness of the move (and if the player was of Latino origin and waved a Latin American flag--God help us. I could hear Limbaugh explode from here). How one wishes to draw the line regarding national pride in a support where so many players compete in foreign leagues, like soccer, is difficult, and different nationalities might see the issue differently.

That said, anyone not from Ghana needs to back off (and nothing in the article indicates that it was an internal reaction from Ghana that provoked the apology). Ghana's soccer federation might be better off defending its stars from allegations that they are "ignorant and stupid," Mossad agents, and/or bribed by Israelis. They also might want to give Paintsil a forum to discuss whether or not he'd been taken to "football training camps set up by an Israeli coach who discovered the treasure of African talent, and abused the poverty of the continent's children with the ultimate goal of selling them off to European clubs....[S]tart[ing] every morning with a salute to the Israeli flag."

I am so sick of this. Israel is, far and away, the most unjustly abused nation-state in the world arena. Waving the Israeli flag expresses precisely no opinion as to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It does, I concede, express an opinion as to whether Israel is a legitimately existing country, and let's be clear: that's what this is about. Many people in the Arab world still fundamentally reject Israel's right to exist.

That Mr. Paintsil and his fellow teammates who play in Israel have had such warm feelings towards their host country was truly inspiring. I was hoping that it might open some eyes among people in regions of the world where there are no Jews and thus have far less opportunities to refute the constant stream of slander that Israelis (and often Jews too) are subjected to on a daily basis. Nobody can take away Mr. Paintsil's bold display, but I was hoping that his superiors would embrace it, not hide it as some embarrassing secret.

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