Nov 20, 2012, 10:04 AM EDT
I hate the word ‘rubble.’ Nothing good can result from that word appearing in a sentence — it denotes death and destruction, either wrought by nature or, worse, by man. More rubble again this week as the Israeli Air Force bombed targets on the Gaza Strip, with terrible loss of life and destruction of, among other things, Palestine Stadium.
The Israelis have destroyed this stadium before, in 2006, in an air strike that literally left a giant crater in the middle of the soccer pitch. Palestine just got done rebuilding it, with the help of FIFA, and now it’s mostly a pile of smoking concrete once again. Palestine Stadium is not only the home of the national soccer team, but is the headquarters of many club sports — the hub of sports activity in the area.
The Israeli Defense Forces claim that the stadium has been a staging area for firing rockets from Gaza into Tel Aviv, and that’s why it was targeted. Some observers on the Palestinian side disagree with that simple explanation, however.
Columnist Dave Zirin, sports editor of The Nation:
The answer is simple. Sports is more than loved in Gaza (and it is loved.) It’s an expression of humanity for those living under occupation. It’s not just soccer and it’s not just the boys. Everyone plays, with handball, volleyball and basketball joining soccer as the most popular choices. … As one Palestinian man from Gaza said to me, “[Sports] is our time to forget where we are and remember who we are.”
Attacking the athletic infrastructure is about attacking the idea that joy, normalcy or a universally recognizable humanity could ever be a part of life for a Palestinian child. …
At home, attacking sports is about nothing less than killing hope.
I have no informed opinion on whether rockets were indeed fired from the stadium, or who is right or wrong in this conflict. But Zirin is right when he asserts that an attack on the sports infrastructure is an attack on hope. More than destroying buildings, it’s a form of psychological warfare. But then, isn’t all war?
Zirin points out that Palestinian’s domestic soccer league, the West Bank Premier League, has completed only seven seasons since its founding in 1977, which I find astounding. But then, a huge bomb crater in the middle of your field tends to slow down play quite a lot.
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