June 24, 2006

A Crash Course about Human Nature

Saturday one week ago, a young Ghanan defender pulled a small-towel-sized Israeli flag out of his sock during Ghana and the Czech Republic's surprising 2-0 match and brandished it about to celebrate each of the goals scored by his country against the highly favoured Czechs.

It was, so it seemed, the most shocking sight in a football stadium since the Taliban mass-executions or the concentration camp to which Uncle Augusto, long since forgotten, had turned his. Had Pantsil raped a child right on the kick-off mark, the reaction couldn't have been more strident.

The Israeli minister for sport, Ophir Pines-Paz, may have found the gesture "heartwarming", the Arab countries' reaction was a bit more up on the temperature scale. "What are you doing there, man?", one TV-commentator of an Arab station was heard shouting during the life-broadcast.

Pantsil is "ignorant and stupid", so the Egyptian daily Al Akhbar and the Egyptian official newspaper Al Ahram even informed us that Pantsil is a "Mossad agent", paid by the Israelis for waving the little flag. Behind this conspiracy, so Al Ahram, are Israeli football coaches, hell-bent on bleeding white the African continent by forcing young African talent into training camps where they have to salute the Israeli flag every morning. Pantsil, thus brainwashed, had no other choice than doing so. They just stopped short of the blood libel.

And nobody laughed.

Not only did they not laugh, but on a day when Ghana should have been celebrating a stunning victory over a much favoured team, their officials were busy instead sucking up to the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish lobby.

The Ghanan government officially apologised to the Arab League for the young defender’s gesture. A Ghanan football official added that Pantsil has been warned: "He is obviously unaware of the implications of what he did. He’s unaware of the international politics … He did not act out of malice for the Arab people or in support of Israel. He was naïve."

It's like the old joke really. One can be stupid, well-meaning and pro-Israel, or intelligent and malicious and pro Israel. But one can NOT be well-meaning, intelligent AND pro-Israel.

It is not so as if Pantsil, a pro playing for a Tel Aviv club and who his living now (... how long exactly?) in Israel got a crash course in Middle East politics, as some put it. WHAT he got was a crash course in human nature.

Talking about human nature, neither the German hosts of this great non-political event, nor the German media (nor the international media, for that) lifted as much as a finger to send out a signal saying: "Leave the guy alone!" Different from that unwashed-looking Über-Aryan president whose name I can't remember.

Which proves once again that in Germany you will get more support by threatening to wipe Israel off the map than by waving an Israeli flag.