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Source: Miami Herald
by Uri Dromi
FOCUS ON ISRAEL
JERUSALEM -- With the soccer World Cup games about to begin next week, the question of which team you are going to support becomes crucial. For an American, it's simple: You support the American team, and if you're Hispanic, you get a bonus, because you can also enjoy Argentina, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador playing against the rest of the world -- not to mention favorite Brazil.
However, for fans whose country didn't qualify, like Israel, it's not so easy. Of course, people who have immigrated from Argentina or the Ukraine, and there are many of those in Israel, the question is settled. But what about the rest? Should we support Holland, because Dutchmen saved some Jews during the Holocaust? Or Ivory Coast, to stand by the underdog? Or Italy, because their players all look like Leonardo Di Caprio? Tough decision.
We know, though, which team all Israelis are going to hate: Iran. You watch these people chasing the ball and you pray that they stumble, thinking, of course, about a different game, the one their scientists and politicians are playing back home, aimed at destroying Israel. The day will come when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his lieutenants will be coerced to drop their deadly nuclear scheme. In the meantime, let their soccer players suffer a humiliating defeat every time they show up in the stadium.
Recently, however, another team has made itself a candidate to be the most disliked by Israelis: England. The reason? The British National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education has just adopted a resolution calling for a boycott on Israeli universities, because of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.
That such a resolution should be adopted when Israel has shown its will to stop ruling the Palestinians -- first by pulling out of Gaza and then by indicating its intention for more withdrawals in the West Bank -- is a testimony to the hypocrisy of these so-called educators.
But is this just a criticism of Israel's policies? Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman, author of Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism, believes that there is more. Writing in the International Herald Tribune in April 2005, when the British organization initiated this sinister resolution, he wrote, ``The call to boycott Israeli academic institutions has hundreds of supporters in Europe, nourished by a growing climate of anti-Zionism that is often indistinguishable from anti-Semitism.''
Alexander Yacobson, a columnist in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, concurs. Last week he wrote that coalition forces in Iraq kill civilians ''much more easily'' than Israeli troops in the occupied territories, but that Israeli universities were nevertheless singled out for sanction. ''There is no escaping the conclusion that beyond any legitimate political criticism, the emotional stance of Europe toward Israel is influenced -- and not only on the margins -- by the deep and ancient European obsession and pathology regarding the Jewish nation,'' he wrote.
Hotbeds of free thinking
Indeed, I would have liked to see those Brits, who uphold human rights so much, pass a resolution boycotting Iran because of its president's threats to eliminate Israel and for denying the Holocaust. But that, of course, is asking too much.
Also, there is something totalitarian and McCarthyite in this British approach. Obviously trying to recycle the boycott that worked against South Africa, the British boycotters ignore the fact that unlike in South Africa, where the universities were part and parcel of the apartheid system, the universities in Israel are hotbeds of free thinking and many of their faculty and students are critical of the government's policies. By indiscriminately boycotting the Israeli universities, the British educators will only strengthen those in Israel, mainly from the right, who have always said, ``Why bother, the world is against us anyway.''
Many Israeli academicians are trying to cooperate with their Palestinian colleagues, believing that big politics aside, people of goodwill and capabilities from both sides should work together for a better future for their peoples. By their senseless and vicious motion, the British educators will only undermine such efforts.
That's it. When David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and the other English players walk into the stadium, I'll pray for their defeat, even by Iran. Well, maybe that's too harsh. Let Saudi Arabia beat them.
Uri Dromi is director of International Outreach at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem.
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