Basketball Diplomacy

For me, the first truly inspiring news from the Beijing Summer Olympics had nothing to do with athletic achievement. It occurred when David Blatt, the Israeli coach of the Russian basketball team made a point of shaking the hands with and embracing the captain of the Iranian team after a game.

The American-born Blatt later commented:

This is the beauty of sport: as soon as you start running you forget everything and remember that we are all the same. Unfortunately, politics is not in the hands of the regular people and the athletes.

Uzi Dann, writing in Ha’aretz, snarkily dismissed Blatt’s gesture, pointing out that an Iranian swimmer has already refused to compete against an Israeli and that certainly no Iranian would ever deign to shake Blatt’s hand if he was the coach of the Israeli team. Oh pleeeeze: is it possible to simply savor this exquisite moment without Scrooging it up with sour grapes? Given the often unbearable political tensions in our world, I’d say we should welcome every instance in which someone extends a hand in the spirit of simple humanity…

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