Israel Affaire: Sher’s reply to Carruthers

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Hanan Sher 01Much has been written about the fact that Israel is not sending teams to the Venice Cup for women and the d’Orsi Cup world championship for seniors, due to take place in Bali in mid-September. The latest was an editorial in the bulletin of the International Bridge Press Association written by its editor, John Carruthers. His intention may have been to make it the last word. It isn’t.

I am compelled to take issue with Mr. Carruthers. It’s not his opinion that I wish to dispute: I don’t object to different views, and in fact welcome them. What a dull place it would be if everyone agreed on everything.

The problem is how he relates to facts. He dismisses the serious issues of visas for the Israeli team, which had apparently been resolved, and an unsettled question of security by saying that the Indonesians “stalled.” Stall? They refused to respond to a legitimate request for security consultations until it became impossible for the Israelis to attend. And they were too cowardly to simply said no and accept whatever consequences such a decision would bring. And while he is correct in stating that the Israeli team withdrew, he conveniently omits that they said they did so because they had found it impossible to even talk about security precautions their government deemed necessary. That’s like going to a soccer match, having the guy in the ticket booth refuse to sell you a ticket, and leaving because it’s impossible to get in.

Mr. Carruthers also should bone up on political science. In diplomatese “recognize” means “have diplomatic relations with” and not acceptance of a state’s “right to exist.” If he was interested in facts, Carruthers might have discovered that Israel and Indonesia have had de facto contacts for years. Moreover, the Jakarta government was about to set up a consulate, which would handle its relationship with Israel, in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinian regime in the West Bank. That fell through when Israel (mistakenly and stupidly in my opinion) last December refused to allow the Indonesian foreign minister access to Ramallah, which Israel controls. Retaliation for that unwarranted exclusion might be an understandable motive for refusing entry to the Israeli team. But that would have been honest and forthright.

That’s not all. Carruthers cites a post by Jason Feldman of Bridgewinners about the U.S. refusal of visas to 32 would-be participants in the 2010 Philadelphia World Bridge Series, implying that the Indonesians aren’t the only ones who keep bridge players out of their countries. But he fails to note that the circumstances of the U.S. exclusion – which are described in the same paragraph of Feldman’s post — was because of fear that applicants might jump their visas and stay on in the U.S. illegally. Where’s the parallel between that and Indonesia’s behavior? Is Carruthers suggesting that six Israeli women might be planning to leave their families and stay on in Bali, tropical paradise that it is said to be?

The editorial also suggests that things might have been different had Gen. Wiranto, the former commander of the Indonesian army, still been involved in bridge affairs. And there are those who say that Jose Damiani would never have allowed this to happen had he still headed the WBF. So what? Actions cannot be judged on what might have happened, only on what has.

It’s difficult to comprehend the gentleman’s sense of fair play. He says the Israeli Bridge Federation have been “excellent sports” for going quietly, without a fuss. At the same time, he complains that the Indonesians – who have done everything they could to keep the Israeli team out without saying “no” — and WBF – which was ineffective in its efforts, if any – to protect the rights of a member national bridge organization — have been the victims of “undeserved scorn.” Really? Are their actions to be considered good, perhaps even superb sportsmanship?

Worst of all is Carruthers’s crude attempt to discredit those who raise objections as “hysterical.” Suggestions of a boycott of a change of venue were legitimate, if not practical. His attempt to belittle disagreement is, in a word, insulting.


Hanan Sher 

Hanan Sher is a retired Israeli-american journalist who sometimes writes about bridge.  And thoug he is a member of the Israel Bridge Federation, the opinions he expresses are entirely his own, and do not represent the IBF in any way.

Read Carruthers’ Editorial: click here >>


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