Maccabe Haifi vs Washington Wizards basketball game draws pro-Palestine protest

On the 15th of October, the Israeli basketball team Macabee Haifi was defeated 105-95 by the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center. Both inside and outside, protesters denounced Israel's aggression against the people of Palestine. One protester re-used the former name of the Wizards, calling Macabee Haifi the "Israeli Bullets." This protest was part of the cultural boycott of Israel. That boycott, in turn, is part of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions campaign inspired by the sucessful campaign that overthrew apartheid in South Africa.

50 sec video of the protest

Creative Commons Licence


AN IRONY OF Israeli political culture is that Zionism is exceptionally rigid in comparison to the democratic philosophy that legitimizes the U.S. political system, yet the breadth of political debate that appears in Israeli mainstream media is much wider than one would find in the United States.Within the editorial columns of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, readers will find both conservative defenders of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and leftist writers such as Gideon Levy and Amira Haas who regard it as criminal and consistently expose the racist policies of the Israeli state. Between those poles are numerous layers of critique and counter-critique.In the spring of 2010, for example, a wide-ranging debate developed within Ha’aretz over whether Israel could be both “Jewish and democratic” — i.e. whether a state which grants legal privileges to some and denies rights to others based on religious affiliation or descent can be considered a democracy. Even some who defend the status quo concede that Israel’s “democracy” is in conflict with its Jewishness.In short, within Israel the mainstream media will print the words of those who challenge the fundamental assumptions which justify the Zionist state. Contrast that with the level of permissible debate within the news media in the United States. For the New York Times, The Washington Post, or CNN, the mainstreams of the Democratic and Republican parties form the perimeter of acceptable discourse. To find columnists who challenge whether capitalism is the best of all possible systems, or whether the quality of a town’s roads or schools should be determined by the profitability of the businesses within that town, one would have to turn to more marginal publications.From 2002 to 2004 it was difficult to find a mainstream critic who questioned the thesis that Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to the United States. The only debate was over how to address that threat. And which columnists categorized the Iraq War as an imperial venture justified by misinformation? Only after 2005, when opinion polls shifted against the war, and even the Bush administration began to purge the war’s neoconservative architects, did the media debate widen somewhat.Yet the relative openness within Israel is itself deceptive. Rather than the product of a more tolerant political system, it is a dialectical reflection of the brittleness and frailty of Zionist ideology. Unlike the republican philosophy that forms the basis of political common sense in the United States, Zionism rests on a narrow set of crucial myths: the biblical story of exile, the description of Palestine as a “land without a people” before the arrival of the Jews in the late 19th century, the categorization of all forms of resistance to Israel as anti-Semitic terrorism, and the description of all Israeli actions as defensive.Challenge any of these assumptions and you are questioning the historical legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise and the foundations of the Israeli state it produced. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Israeli debates, both within the media and within academia, get so vitriolic. It is difficult to maintain politeness and find common ground when the topic of discussion is whether or not the current structures of power and privilege should continue to exist.