Thursday, May 27, 2004

Complex Reality

Erik alerted me to the following letter to the editor which ran in yesterday's Le Monde (no link available):
There are several ways to render the sporting triumph of a small Galilean town in Israel (Le Monde May 20). It all depends on the point of view you take. You took the opportunity to mention mainly the identity problems of Israel's Arab citizens and the tensions they experience among their fellow citizens. You thought it fitting not to leave out mention of the fact that Israel treats them as second class citizens, without exception. To state that the development of football is an escape for Israeli Arabs while you seemed surprised by the non-nationalistic nature of the team in question.

However the players, as is done in so many countries, rounded the stadium with a flag to celebrate the victory. The flag of... Israel.

Another choice was possible for Le Monde's front page. For example, [you could have] told of the symbol of the reconciliation of identities; insisted on the existence of such mixed teams, capable of winning all despite the obvious tensions. In doing so, you might have emphasized the numerous origins of the players in the lineup (There were Jews. There were Arabs. I believe there were also non-Israelis). On this occasion, you might have informed us on life inside the Judeo-Arab collective of this Israeli football club. You might have revealed with humor that Haifa, the unlucky finalists, were also a mixed side with two Arab players among them.

You might even have described the classic congratulatory telephone call from the head of state, Ariel Sharon, in this case, to Mazen Ghnaim, the club president, an hour after the victory. Without further comment. You might have told of how the winning team celebrated its victory on the pitch with Israeli Arab members of parliament, one of whom said, "This victory has done honor by all of Israeli society and demonstrates the potential for total equality between sectors [of society]." You might also have mentioned the remarks by the team captain, Abas Suan: "We represented the nation with pride tonight and we intend to do it with even more pride next year in Europe." At last, you might have told how the fans gathered to celebrate the victory, around 20,000 of them from the entire surrounding Arab neighborhood but also Jewish fans from neighboring cities.

All the choices to relate the event are possible. None is foremost or necessary. As is often the case, reality is many-sided. There are difficult matters and others, more happy. Sometimes the event bears symbolism and hope, beyond a mixed reality. Thus, on the subject in question, the choice ultimately depends on the way in which one has decided to illuminate the event.

Isabelle Langlois

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