Monday, January 26, 2009

Shoes of Mass Destruction

If you think I am re-hashing here the story of the bold Iraqi reporter, who threw his shoes at ex-President Bush during a press conference with Iraqi prime minister present, you are mistaken. This story you're about to read did not take place in Iraq nor was Mr. Bush involved.

The story is from Turkey, where an Israeli basket ball team was playing against a Turkish team. I was unable to confirm exact date or place of the event as the story reached me after multiple forwarding of emails. I have written to the last sender trying to get more information, but the photos looked genuine enough.

Here is how the story goes. All seemed normal enough: spectators filed in slowly through the security checks at the gates and took their places in orderly fashion. Then the teams entered the field. As soon as the Israeli team was on the grounds, spectators started hurling shoes at them. The team had to be whisked out while security forces struggled to contain the angry spectators.

Here are the photos received about that encounter:

Looking at the pictures I can't help but have conflicting feelings. The first is feeling sorry for the players and for the game. Sports is supposed to foster sportsmanship and friendly competition. Chasing a team out of the court with a barrage of shoes does not fit in that category.

On the other hand I also felt a certain satisfaction that people with nothing but shoes expressed their dismay at Israel's overbearing power used so unjustly against the Palestinians under occupation for so long.

Next the cynical part in me took over and I thought about all the "funny" jokes that such accident could trigger: Turkey ( a Muslim country) would be accused of having shoes of mass destruction that threaten the national security of Israel and the U.S.; embargo will be put in place against it and UN inspectors sent to dismantle the Turkish shoe industry... etc.

Finally, a feeling of sadness was all that remained. Sadness because of the damage this conflict is causing to civil life and society; because people are so desperate under occupation that they challenge tanks with stones and powerful enemy leaders with shoes; because their anger is spreading to other people and other places feeding a never ending cycle of hate and violence; and because of the failure of our international community to put a stop to this tragedy and restore the rights of the Palestinians.

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