“Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), Maccabi USA, Maccabi World Union, and Maccabi Tel-Aviv will host a VIP reception before the Brooklyn Nets take on the Israeli and European hoops champions Maccabi Tel-Aviv in their first pre-season game on Tuesday, Oct. 7,” read the press release at Jewish Political News & Updates earlier this month (“the VIP reception will pay special tribute to Israeli soldiers wounded in the recent IDF Operation Protective Edge and, at the same time, to the Guest of Honor, NBA Hall of Famer, Dolph Schayes, 86, the only Jewish player to be selected as one of the 50 all-time NBA best”). Lest you think an event honoring IDF Operation Protective Edge is no big deal at a major North American sporting event, The Nation’s Dave Zirin warns, “the specter of a pro-Palestinian protest at an Israeli sporting event” is coming to Brooklyn.
I spoke to Tsvia Thier, an Israeli citizen now living in New York, who plans to be a part of whatever protest assembles outside the Barclays Center on October 7th. She said to me, “Israel dropped thousands of pounds of weapons on Gaza. More than 2,000 people died. More than 500 children were killed. There has been no justice for this. We cannot allow for these games to go forward without bearing witness…as if these criminal acts did not just take place. Our memories cannot be that short.” Thier was on her way to a meeting of the group Jewish Voice for Peace to raise plans to protest when I spoke with her.
The NBA has made no announcements to signal any effort to bring a Palestinian basketball team to the United States, despite the league’s popularity in both the West Bank and Gaza. The absence of an invitation is somewhat understandable, because, if international soccer is any guide, even if invited the players probably would not be able to attend. Surrounded by armed checkpoints, attempting to journey to the United States would be a frustrating if not fruitless act. Commissioner Adam Silver, who acted with great moral clarity during the Donald Sterling debacle, should make it his mission to invite a Palestine club team to the United States, and apply pressure to make it a reality. It would be a sign that he is willing to do what so many will not: recognize the humanity of the Palestinian people. He should also tell Maccabi that they will be delinking these NBA preseason games from Friends of the IDF