Thursday, August 11, 2016

I continued my Twitter conversation with Reuters' Luke Baker about the Palestinian swimmer story.

He said that I was wrong in my assertion that Reuters blamed Israel for her being unable to train in Jerusalem, because the actual Reuters quote said "Use of superior Israeli facilities and training partners in nearby Jerusalem where there are several Olympic-sized pools and many swimmers, has not been possible due to the long-standing conflict with Israel."

When I asked how that doesn't blame Israel, he responded:

This is disingenuous. Reuters has written hundreds of stories about Israel supposedly oppressing Palestinians, and less than a handful on Palestinian opposition to normalization with Israel. The only possible interpretation that a Reuters reader could get from the story is that Israel is responsible for al-Atrash not being allowed to train. It certainly didn't say that Palestinians were against such training.

Taking the two Reuters statements together - that use of the Jerusalem facilities "has not been possible" and that Palestinians oppose letting athletes train in Israel, together with the IDF's statement that they would have been happy to allow Mary al-Atrash to train in Israel if she had only applied for a permit, we come to a conclusion: Reuters seems to be saying that the Palestinian leadership bans their athletes from training in Israel.

This would be an astonishing piece of news.

I asked Baker to confirm that this was what he was saying:

Unfortunately, he apparently did not feel comfortable answering this tweet.

Upon reflection, I don't think that there is an actual ban from the PA. I cannot find anything written that indicates that. Tens of thousands of Arabs enter Israel daily to go to work; if the PA specifically banned athletes it would be a big deal.

However, it is entirely possible that Baker was hinting that Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, has told athletes that they cannot go to the Olympics  if they train in Israel, effectively handicapping their own athletes in the name of "anti-normalization." Rajoub regards sports as an important piece in the propaganda war against Israel and he would not want any story to ever be published about how Israel cooperates with Palestinian athletes to help them go to the Olympics. Any cooperation with Israel would deflate Rajoub's entire reason from moving from terrorism to "sports."

This is the man, after all, who said that a moment of silence for Israeli athletes murdered in Munich would be "racism."

This is why the author of the article, Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh, didn't bother to ask the IDF if they didn't allow athletes to train. He knew that it wasn't Israel's fault to begin with so he just implied it by blaming the "conflict." No reader would even consider the idea that the Palestinians themselves would purposefully use their athletes as pawns in such a way.

Whatever the specifics, Baker is saying that Palestinians are not allowing their own athletes to get the best possible training for political reasons. This is a huge story - a story that Reuters knows about and yet is not willing to report, clarify, confirm or deny.

Which is, when you think of it, also a huge story.

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