To watch some of the coverage, you might think that the Olympics proves that the greatest athletes of every country on the globe, plus the refugees, can come together and put aside the various religious, ethnic and historic rivalries that divide us.
Not so fast.
There was the incident of the Lebanese delegation not allowing the Israeli athletes.
And there was Saudi judoka Joud Fahmy, who literally forfeited his first-round match in what was seen as an effort to avoid an Israeli opponent.
And then, captured on film, Israeli victor Or Sasson reached out to shake the hand of Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby, the man he defeated in judo, and Shehaby refused the handshake. The Egyptian, known for being anti-Israel, had actually considered withdrawing from the match rather than face the Israeli.
Is this the Olympic spirit?
You don’t have to be that old to remember the brutal murder of the Israeli delegation to the Munich Olympics in 1972. And you don’t have to be a real student of history to know that Adolf Hitler tried to wrap himself in the Olympic flag in 1936.
Of course politics isn’t left behind at the Olympics. But it’s hard to not notice the difference between how the North Koreans and South Korean athletes are treating each other (warmly, it seems, snapping group pictures) and how the Israelis are being treated by their neighbors. Athletes or not, they will not give up.
And that should be terrifying to all of us. If the North Koreans and South Koreans can find common ground, why can’t the Arab countries show common decency to their Jewish neighbors?
Most of my Jewish friends are convinced that the “liberal media” in fact leans over backward to show no favoritism to Israel and, in the process, actually favors Israel’s enemies. I think there is a good deal of truth to that: We expect more from Israel than from virtually any other country in the world. I have no doubt that the Egyptian would readily shake hands with athletes from countries where the rule of law is a mockery and the rule of one man, or of the military, is accepted. I am sure he would have shaken hands with those from countries that deny human rights to their own citizens.
Why, even in this Olympic season, even between young people who share the same passions, does the fire of hatred seem to burn so deep?
I remember, nearly 30 years ago, visiting Palestinian refugee camps where little children had cartoon coloring books in which the Jews were always the villains and thieves. “What happens to those children when they grow up?” I wondered then.
I fear that we all know the answer. ©2016 Creators