Down Under: Cause and Means.
This is a little maddening.
A group of 10 protestors gathered outside the facilities at the ASB Classic in Auckland New Zealand to protest the participation of Israeli player Shahar Peer. The protest noise from outside the tennis complex at one point stopped the play with Peer looking visibly unhappy. The protestors chanted through a loudspeaker, “blood, blood on your hands”, “freedom for Palestine”, and “go home, Shahar” accompanied by drums.
A 15 minute argument ensued, with the tournament officials wanting to stop the match and deal with the noise, while Peer and her coach insisted they play on. As play resumed, Peer channeled her inner rage and blitzed through the rest of the match, steamrolling Rybarikova 6-1 6-0.
Sport and politics always make for an interesting, if not controversial issue. The instinct here is to jump all over the protestors, and for the most part, I’ve got to agree. But in the interest of fairness, hear what they have to say about their actions.
The group sent Peer, 22, a letter asking her to withdraw “as a demonstration of your commitment to peace” and plan to protest until she does, or is knocked out of the tournament.
Protester Janfrie Wakim, of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign Auckland, said sport was an important part of the boycott campaign.
“That is an argument that is used in the past, but it is one of the ways to get some leverage, and we saw that in South Africa and we saw it so effectively in rugby. Of course the argument is politics and sport don’t mix, well, politics affects the lives of every Palestinian – they have no chance of being involved in sport and this is an opportunity for us to affect those policies.
“[Peer] has declared her service to the Israeli Army, and she is apparently a very good shot. She hasn’t joined a lot of other young Israelis and become a refusenik, which she could have easily done if she had the courage to do so.”
I’ve got to say – I’m sympathetic to their cause. In fact, I’m probably one of the few out there who are willing to give politics a place in sports.
To put it simply, politics is people. And so is sport.
Given the amount of money, fame and media attention in professional sports, why not use it as a platform to speak out and affect social change? After all, we weren’t wagging our fingers when North and South Korea marched out as one team at the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony. Was that not a positive political statement of unity and peace?
The problem here isn’t the cause of their political activism, or the fact that they tried to politicize sport. What is problematic is the means through which they’re trying to achieve their end.
Essentially, what the group is trying to do here is to bully a girl into giving up her livelihood because they don’t agree with her country’s politics.
Has anyone ever protested the presence of American players in tournaments because of the existence of Guantanamo Bay? Or requested Chinese players to withdraw for failing to speak out against their government’s human rights record?
I have a problem with Lindt’s supply chain, which often involves forced labour and child slavery on cocoa plantations. Does that mean I should ask Roger to give up his sponsorship deal?
If not, then why is it okay to force an Israeli player to give up her profession because of politics?
By all means, be politically active. Campaign for your cause. But choose the means through which you protest carefully. Because something like this could backfire on your cause in the media and turn popular support against you.
Color me surprised if most people out there don’t look on the protesters’ actions with a little disgust.