US sports stars train with Israeli military

By Michael F. Brown

American football player Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers visited Israel and occupied East Jerusalem earlier this year and offered his view on Armageddon | Scott Winters, Sportswire

For the immediate future, major professional team sports are done. There are no live games to watch or attend.

Professional basketball and hockey seasons are suspended and probably won’t resume. Major League Baseball is delayed and may not start until well into the summer, if then.

College seasons are canceled. Graduating seniors playing high school sports may well have played their final games.

And – across the Atlantic – there’s Liverpool missing out on the Premier League title.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, is a terrifying new reality in our lives. Sports are secondary. But their absence is a painful loss for many who enjoy following favorite teams or local youth leagues.

Caught up in coronavirus news, it would have been easy to miss the off-season travels of American football players earlier this year.

Unsurprisingly, players from the National Football League recently took another junket to Israel, once again amply propagandized. The latest one was organized through RoboActive #2069, an Israeli high school group.

Joshua Norman made a return trip. And Adrian Peterson – who happens to hail from Palestine, Texas – took his first trip to Israel, as well as occupied East Jerusalem.

In 2018 Norman visited Shiloh, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Like all such settlements, Shiloh is illegal under international law. Yet The Washington Post simply referred to his visiting “the ancient city of Shiloh during a surprise visit to Israel with six other current and former NFL players.”

Such language confuses readers and obscures the reality of Israel’s illegal activities in the West Bank.

Appropriation

Norman appropriated a Palestinian look, but demonstrated no awareness of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and equal rights.

During their recent time in the region, Norman and Peterson trained with the Israeli military. They ran an obstacle course and took part in Krav Maga lessons.

“It’s amazing to get in there and train with these guys because they are at the top of their game at being in combat,” Norman stated to Fox News, a conservative network which often cheers Israeli military actions.

In fact, Israel’s “top of their game” military generally kills more civilians than combatants.

The visit was a clear violation of the guidelines drawn up by the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The “common-sense rationales” referred to in these guidelines make clear that Palestinians oppose participation in an “event [that] is shown to be explicitly justifying, advocating or promoting war crimes, racial discrimination, apartheid, suppression of fundamental human rights and serious violations of international law.”

The Israeli military routinely metes out all of these injustices to the occupied Palestinian population.

Shortly after his return to the US, Norman left the Washington Redskins – a racial epithet that team owner Daniel Snyder refuses to change – and signed a one-year contract with the Buffalo Bills for $6 million.

Peterson, in past years one of American football’s top running backs, remains with the Washington franchise.

Snyder, a booster of President Donald Trump, attended an exclusive inauguration event for Trump in 2017.

Propaganda

In 2017, several players repudiated a planned trip to Israel after it became clear that Gilad Erdan, Israel’s strategic affairs minister, intended to use the visit for propaganda purposes. Erdan prematurely claimed at the time that the players would “present the beautiful face of Israel to their tens of millions of fans in the United States,” helping to offset the impact of the BDS movement.

An additional player, Hunter Henry, a tight end with the Los Angeles Chargers, took a trip to Israel and occupied East Jerusalem last month.

On his Instagram account, Henry voiced his apocalyptic views: “Looking out over where the end of the world will happen. The battle of Armageddon will go down right in front of me.”

Both Henry and Peterson were baptized in the Jordan River.

No visiting player appeared to make any comment expressing outrage or mild concern about the lack of equal rights and freedom for Palestinians.

Apartheid concerts

Athletes are not the only ones violating the cultural boycott of Israel – modelled on the example of actions against apartheid South Africa – resulting from decades of abusing Palestinian human rights.

Musicians are now making summer plans which may or may not be disrupted by COVID-19.

Morrissey is planning to play Israel in May and press reports indicate his shows are going ahead despite the COVID-19 outbreak.

Additionally, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has called on the band Dinosaur Jr. “to cancel their scheduled 17 June concert in apartheid Tel Aviv.”

The show, which was to have been headlined by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, has now been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

That is the right decision but it is alarming bands are canceling solely on account of a dangerous virus rather than because of outrage over racial discrimination very much akin to that practiced by apartheid South Africa.

Concert promoters know, even if the bands themselves don’t yet, that while Israeli settlers can freely cross the 1949 armistice line to attend, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza cannot.

Racial discrimination presumably will not be a significant concern to Morrissey. He is a supporter of the British far right, who has voiced anti-Muslim views and expressed anti-Chinese racism by calling them “a subspecies” in 2010.

With a bigoted worldview, it is unsurprising that Morrissey is such a big fan of Israel that he has written a song praising the state.

Electronic Intifada

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Filed under Athletes, Basketball

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