Abbas Suan, as an Arab-Israeli, not just another soccer player
We take it for granted that we can see the World Cup on ESPN/ ABC and if we don't want to suffer Marcelo Balboa and Dave O'Brien's retarded commentary, we have the option of switching to the Univision channel that more than makes up for our incomprehension of the commentary with its excitement and passion.
But on Tony Karon's blog we learn that Marcelo Balboa and Dave O'Brien's commentary or any commentary on the World Cup would be welcome in Palestine. The Israelis have knocked out the power in Gaza and the Palestinians there have not be able to see any of the World Cup since the quarterfinals began. The Israelis have also bombed the water supply, and subjected the Gaza populace to sleep depriving sonic booms. They have cordoned of the Gaza and it is only due to the pressure of humanitarian groups that essential supplies are now reaching the Gazans. The Gazans are being punished because an Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas supporters who are demanding in exchange the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. This comes a few days after the Israelis killed seven in a Palestinian family vacationing in a Gaza beach in barrage of fire from an Israeli gunboat ostensibly to knockout a battery of Qassam rockets operating in a nearby village. The IDF after their investigation absolved their forces of any wrongdoing and blamed it on a hidden bomb in the Gaza beach that exploded.
The brutality of the Israeli response to Gilad Shalit's capture is to subject the Gazan population to a collective punishment. The punishment for electing a Hamas government, an organization ironically supported by the Israelis, in the early 60's as a countervail to the PLF led by Yasser Arafat. Hamas over the years has provided the Palestinians with hope that they would end the decades of cronyism and corruption of Arafat's PLO and Fatah, with their extra-ordinary work in building one of the Middle East's biggest charitable foundation of hospitals and social welfare programs for the beleaguered Palestinians.
Soccer has long been a staple for the Palestinians to forget their suffering under occupation. The World Cup every four years brings a respite to lay aside their problems for a month or so. Palestine cannot compete in the World Cup as it is not recognized as a country. But Israel can. This year's World Cup was a very close affair as Israel was on the brink of qualifying for the first time after the 1970 World Cup. The player that ignited their hopes was Abbas Suan, an Arab, who scored a goal that tied Israel with Ireland in the 90th minute. He along with fellow Arab Israeli, Walid Badar and Salim Tuana provided Israel with a midfield that kept them close in the World Cup qualifiers. The Israel squad remained undefeated with 4 wins and 6 draws, eventually losing out to group qualifiers France and Switzerland. But for a moment these three players were instrumental in bringing amity between two inimical groups of people. The Palestinians were justly proud that they had representation in the Israeli squad (by origin) and the Isrealis could tout that they were a society that believed in pluralism.
The rise of Abbas Suan and Walid Badar was not achieved easily. Israeli fans would taunt them regularly, "Abbas Suan should get cancer”, rhyming it in Hebrew. Abbas Suan was born in Sakhnin, an Arab town in Galilee. This what the Israeli right wingers from Beitar Jerusalem would subject him and Bader to:
"Let the town of Sakhnin be burnt down"
"We hate all Arabs"
"We'd rather lose 0:10 to Ireland rather than have an Arab score a goal in our name! He doesn't represent us!"
This really does not sound much different from the racial taunting seen in the Ultras, the Irreducibili, or the Delije in the Italian, Spanish, and Serbian Leagues.
CAMERA reminds us that this sort of racism is prevalent in soccer in many European countries with specific incidents involving Samuel Eto'o, Shaun Wright Philips, and Thierry Henry. We have highlighted the highly despicable racism that goes on in the Serie and La Liga. However, CAMERA glosses over the fact that Abbas Suan and Walid Bader are Israeli citizens, that they and their families chose to live in Israel. These are not players brought from outside like Samuel Eto'o to play for their league. In fact, Emmanuel Pappoe, the Ghanian midfielder who plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv is treated better than Suan and Bader, who are part of the state of Israel as citizens even if the state does not recognize them as Israeli nationals. These players have contributed to the Israeli team being considered as a serious contender in European football after more than 30 years.
One wonders as a matter of conjecture if the Israel squad had made it to this World Cup, and by another miracle, Suan and Badir guided the Israelis to the quarterfinals, what the response of the Olmert government would have been to the present conflagration? Seeing Suan and Badir on TV doing yeoman duty might have calmed things down on both sides.