Commentary Magazine


The Nation Smears David Blatt For Being A Proud Jew

The toxic mix of sports and politics, especially when it came to the treatment of Israel, soured me on the Olympics a long time ago. But even in professional sports where teams are often composed of athletes from around the globe there is no immunity to the virus of hate. While the success of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavalier’s first-year coach David Blatt has been cheered by Israelis, supporters of efforts to deprive that nation of its right to self-defense have a different take. Those who can’t stand the idea of a proud and patriotic Jew being willing to associate himself with his adopted country are bombarding Blatt with abuse because he served his country and is reportedly on speaking terms with Israel’s prime minister. When you consider that NBA players have over the years represented a variety of nations, not all of which everyone loves, without being subjected to political litmus tests, the decision of The Nation to launch a full-scale attack on Blatt for embracing Israeli identity is outrageous. In doing so, the left-wing magazine is demonstrating that the line that supposedly divides anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism is a myth.

Ironically, the New York Times, whose sports pages have often been used by its editors to pursue political causes (the paper bore a great deal of the responsibility for promoting a false and racially-tinged narrative about a rape hoax that led to the Duke Lacrosse team being temporarily disbanded) treated the story about the differing paths to the NBA finals taken by the two coaches both fairly and honestly. The connection between Blatt and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is that both have ties to the Middle East. Kerr’s father Malcolm was president of the American University of Beirut before he was kidnapped and murdered by the Islamic Jihad terror group. Kerr, who speaks Arabic, was born in Lebanon and lived in the Middle East with his family before going back to the United States to play both college and professional basketball. He wanted to hire Blatt as his assistant before the man who led Maccabi Tel Aviv to championships was lured to Cleveland. The juxtaposition of their connections to the region and their nearly being on the same side makes for an interesting sports story.

But The Nation’s Dave Zirin considers their backgrounds an excuse for a rehearsal of the left’s vicious slanders against Israel and its government. In his reading, Malcolm Kerr is a hero who is rightly honored by the Middle East Studies Association, a blatantly biased academic group that promotes boycotts against both Israel and Israelis. On the other, he considers Blatt reprehensible because he is a Zionist who believes in the right of the Jews to their own country and served in the Israeli Army defending it against Arab terrorists. Even worse in his eyes is that Blatt is reportedly on a first-name basis with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom The Nation blasts as a racist.

Let’s leave aside the distortions about Netanyahu as well as the foolishness involved in blaming a celebrity for saying that he knows his country’s leader. Zirin’s real beef with Blatt isn’t the Bibi connection; it’s for being a Zionist and saying this about last summer’s war with Hamas terrorists:

“In my opinion, this war is Israel’s most justified war I can remember in recent years. I’m really sorry about what’s happening in Gaza, but there’s no doubt that we had to act there, so that Israel will have quiet there once and for all.”

Blatt was right, but for Zirin this is outrageous because of the number of Palestinian civilian casualties who were being used as human shields by Hamas terrorists. Zirin forgets to include in his account of the fighting the fact that Hamas and its Islamic Jihad allies launched several thousand rockets at Israeli cities and towns and used tunnels dug under the border to facilitate attempts to kidnap and kill Jews.

He contrasts Blatt’s Israeli patriotism and belief in his country’s people to live without being subjected to constant, deadly terrorism to some quotes from Steve Kerr in which he rightly says not all Arabs or Muslims should be blamed for terrorism before making some less defensible comments about Americans needing to ask why the terrorists hate us.

Kerr grew up in an atmosphere in which such views were mainstream and though I find them worrisome, like almost all sports fans, I’m not any more interested in his politics than I am in Blatt’s affiliations. Both should be seen as sports figures, not politicians, and accordingly cheered or jeered on the work of their teams on the court and nothing else.

But, of course, that spirit of fair competition is of no interest to sports columnists like Zirin who, in the grand tradition of Marxist journalism, uses athletics as an excuse to ride political hobbyhorses. But in the case of Blatt and his unabashed Zionism, Zirin goes farther than merely putting a political slant on a feel-good story of an American who found coaching success abroad before coming home to triumph in the NBA. For left-wing anti-Zionists, Blatt needs to be singled out for opprobrium in a way that no other coach or player from a foreign country has ever been because of what he sees as the unique villainy of Israel. No player from China who had his picture taken with his country’s tyrants has gotten this kind of treatment. Nor has any other NBA player. Only a Jew who says the Jews deserve a country and ought not to be slaughtered by terrorists must be smeared.

Whatever his sympathies in the Middle East conflict might be, Kerr understands the cost of terrorism on a personal basis. So do all too many Israelis who have suffered as he did as a result of attacks by Islamic Jihad and other Islamist and Palestinian groups. The death of Malcolm Kerr ought to be held as an example of what happens when groups like Hamas are granted impunity by their foreign cheerleaders like Dave Zinn. But what Zirin, who cannot use his Jewish origin as a defense, is doing is judging Israelis and Jews by a different standard than any other people. Though he may admit to anti-Zionism, the more accurate term for his brand of bias is anti-Semitism.

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9 Responses to “The Nation Smears David Blatt For Being A Proud Jew”

  1. BEN ORLANSKI says:

    All spot on, but the big punch line–that this is anti-Semitism–is hardly enough. You are at square one. The next step is: how to fight it? My thesis is that yes, there is a “baseline” of anti-Semitism, but it elevates dramatically when conjoined with the “Israel Stole Palestinian Land” lie. This lie must be fought relentlessly, or else the anti-Semites will win.

  2. AVRAHAM TEITZ says:

    No explanation – no appeal to law, history, or God will be sufficient to turn away the Jew hating rage of the anti Semite.

    That the Nation, and the progressive left, are so open in their hate of Israel/Jews indicates how widely held and acceptable these views are.

  3. IKE BASMAN says:

    ….Kerr grew up in an atmosphere in which such views were mainstream and though I find them worrisome, like almost all sports fans, I’m not any more interested in his politics than I am in Blatt’s affiliations. Both should be seen as sports figures, not politicians, and accordingly cheered or jeered on the work of their teams on the court and nothing else…


  4. DAVID LUCK says:

    Thank goodness I don’t have to read The Nation because you read it for me.


    It takes a certain snotty hubris to to take The Nation seriously. It is good to know what’s out there. So Thanks, Mr Tobin.


    The Nation is in the same league as the BBC, the Guardian, Le Monde, the NYT etc. It is not original anymore. This is a total like of creativity. These bigots raise to the level of stupidity.


    Ahead of UN Report on 2014 Gaza War, Multinational Mission of Generals Find: “Israel not only met but significantly exceeded international legal.

    UN Watch .
    What follows should irate Zirin the antisemite.

    The report of the UN’s controversial Schabas-Davis commission of inquiry on Gaza is to be released imminently, and will be debated on Monday, June 29th, before the Human Rights Council.
    UN Watch has obtained a copy of a key submission made to the probe: the preliminary findings of the High Level International Military Group that visited Israel in May 2015 for a fact-finding mission on the 2014 Gaza conflict, whose main points we publish below:
    • The mission was led by General Klaus Naumann, former Chief of Staff of the Bundeswehr and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, the most senior officer in the Alliance, along with 10 other former chiefs of staff, generals, senior officers, political leaders and officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, Holland, Spain, Italy, Australia and Colombia.

    • The mission was the first multi-national group of senior officers to visit Israel in the context of the 2014 conflict, and were granted an unprecedented level of access.
    • “We examined the circumstances that led to the tragic conflict last summer and are in no doubt that this was not a war that Israel wanted. Israel sought to avoid the conflict and exercised great restraint over a period of months before the war when its citizens were targeted by sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza.”
    • “Once the war had begun, Israel made repeated efforts to terminate the fighting. The war that Israel was eventually compelled to fight against Hamas and other Gaza extremists was a legitimate war, necessary to defend its citizens and its territory against sustained attack from beyond its borders.”

    • “Hamas rocket attacks deliberately and indiscriminately targeted Israeli civilian population centres in the south of the country. We visited one, the kibbutz Nahal Oz, at which more than 150 Hamas rockets had been directed last summer, causing loss of life and large-scale destruction. Many attacks were also launched against major cities further north including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Hamas deliberately fired missiles at Ben Gurion International Airport, disrupting and threatening international civil air traffic. There is no doubt that all of these attacks constitute war crimes.”
    • “Hamas also constructed an array of tunnels, using materials diverted from humanitarian supplies, which penetrated the border between Gaza and Israel, in many cases emerging close to civilian communities. We entered one such tunnel, which extended over two kilometres, terminating only a few hundred yards from a kibbutz and likely intended to eventually bore into the kibbutz itself. We can only conclude that these tunnels were designed, at least in part, to attack, kill and abduct Israeli civilians. This again constitutes a war crime.”

    • “Hamas launched attacks against Israel from the heart of its own civilian communities in Gaza and positioned its munitions and military forces there also, including in schools, hospitals and mosques. As well as carefully documented IDF evidence of this, we have viewed international media footage confirming several cases and are aware of senior Hamas officials’ own claims to have used human shields. A recent report by the UN Secretary General confirmed that in some cases Hamas even used UN facilities for storing munitions and launching attacks.”

    • “Each of our own armies is of course committed to protecting civilian life during combat. But none of us is aware of any army that takes such extensive measures as did the IDF last summer to protect the lives of the civilian population in such circumstances.”
    • “We agree with the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, who following the Pentagon’s fact-finding mission to Israel, went on record last November as saying that in the 2014 Gaza conflict, ‘Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties’.”

    • “Our overall findings are that during Operation Protective Edge last summer, in the air, on the ground and at sea, Israel not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, but in many cases significantly exceeded that standard.”
    • “We saw clear evidence of this from the upper to the lower levels of command. A measure of the seriousness with which Israel took its moral duties and its responsibilities under the laws of armed conflict is that in some cases Israel’s scrupulous adherence to the laws of war cost Israeli soldiers’ and civilians’ lives.”
    For full report, click here.

    • DIANE FLAHERTY says:

      Thank you for posting this report. It should be printed in the publications you mention as well as many others, to inform us all, but in particular people like Mr. Zirin and his ilk.


    The Nation has a long history of being a Stalinist mouthpiece. They were furiously opposed to the US supporting Britain until the Nazis invaded the USSR, then ‘Uncle Joe’ gave them new marching orders and demanded intervention.

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