My nephew Doug Klein(through marriage to Debra),an avid sportsman (and wrestler) asked me to post the following Guide to the World Cup:
A Zionist’s Guide To The World Cup
A famous non-Zionist, Leon Trotsky, once said: “You may not be interested in strategy, but strategy is interested in you.” Likewise, you may have no interest in international soccer (or “football” as those snooty foreigners call it), but you should. Not necessarily for the soccer, but for the politics.
Suffice it to say that the most important event for the majority of the world’s population for the calendar year 2010 will be next month’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The whole world will be watching, and every participating nation’s collective self-esteem will be at stake. As such, the eternal question arises: “Is it good for the Jews?” Quite simply stated, we want our friends to do well on the world’s biggest stage, and we want are enemies to suffer embarrassing and ignominious defeat by others wearing short pants and cleats.
(One note about methodology: democracies tend to be better for the Jews than authoritarian regimes.)
To that end, here is your convenient guide for whom to root for and for whom to root against.
Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France.
South Africa: The great struggle for freedom and against apartheid notwithstanding, the Republic of South Africa has been no friend of Israel in recent years. Moreover, it has been one of the strongest non-Arab supporters of the Palestinian cause. Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, a strident anti-Zionist, is a national hero. The vote is no.
Mexico: On the whole, Mexico is a bit pareve on Israel issues, shading slightly in favor of the Arabs. On the other hand, Mexico boasts a vibrant Jewish community. The Mexicans are the arch-rivals of the USA, though, so probably best to take a pass on them.
Uruguay: Well, it’s never been much of a democracy and, like its neighbors, has played host to any number of escaped Nazi war criminals, so Uruguay is a no.
France: Traditionally, this would be a no-brainer. From the Dreyfus Affair to Francois Mitterand, France has been one giant bummer for the modern Jewish experience. The election of Nicholas Sarkozy, though, is a little bit of a game-changer. In this World Cup, better the French than the Brits (see below). Root for France to win the group.
Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece
Argentina: Even more ex-(and not-so-ex-)Nazis than Uruguay. Throw in the government’s apparent involvement in obstructing the investigation in the 1990s bombings of the AMIA headquarters and the Israeli embassy, and it becomes nearly impossible to ever root for Argentina in good conscience.
Nigeria: Typical for a Third World country, Nigeria generally takes the Arabs’ side in international forums. Add in the fact that the country is usually run by some form of authoritarian government. Take a pass on Nigeria.
South Korea: Aside from Jewish servicemen serving in Korea, there has not been much connection between Korea and the Jewish Question; therefore, Korea is the obvious choice for Group B.
Greece: The Jewish community of Salonika was almost totally wiped out by the Nazis during the Shoah. To this day, Greece has done little to come to terms with the near total destruction of its pre-war Jewish community. No. (Let’s not forget, either, that the Greek squad ended Israel’s best chance to qualify for the World Cup since 1970.)
Group C: Algeria, England, Slovenia, United States
Algeria: This is a no-brainer.
England: Also a no-brainer. The home of polite anti-Semitism and Vanessa Redgrave. Never mind that they speak English and David Beckham is into kabbalah.
Slovenia: Although Slovenia lacks the anti-Semitic reputation of its Balkan neighbor Croatia, this is probably because Slovenia historically possessed less Jews to hate. No.
United States of America: A.K.A. Sweet Land of Liberty. Of thee I sing. Let’s just hope that Landon Donovan can find a way to score two goals per game. Oh, yeah, and somebody to play left back. But I digress….
Group D: Australia, Germany, Ghana, Serbia
Australia: Home to one of the most vibrant Jewish communities in the world, the English tradition of disdain for all things Jewish was not entirely transported here with its convict-settlers. Besides, Mel Gibson is not really Australian. The Socceroos get the old okey-dokey.
Germany: While Germany has done more than any other European country to come to terms with its recent past, it is still Germany. I know it is not fair to visit the sins of the grandfathers onto their descendants, but seeing proud Germans singing their national anthem (which has the same tune as “Deutschland Uber Alles”) just doesn’t feel right. Oh well. Tough #$&%.
Ghana: Though there has been a history of positive diplomatic relations between Israel and this west African state, it remains a Third World country with an anti-Israel voting record at the UN. Nothing to see here, sports fans.
Serbia: One of the few countries in the world more unpopular than Israel. The Serbs deserve much credit for putting up such fine resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II. In doing so, many Serbian Jews managed to survive. Still, Serbia is a proud Slavic country, and that never seems to be good for the Jews.
Group E: Cameroon, Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands
Cameroon: (See Ghana, above.)
Denmark: Famous for saving most of their Jews during the Nazi occupation, Denmark is the only country in Scandinavia that allows shechitah. Also, the whole controversy about the cartoons of Muhammad originated here, so it can’t be all bad. No doubt, Denmark is home to a lot of snooty Nordic anti-Semites and anti-Zionists, but one could do much worse than root for them to win.
Japan: Bataan Death March…Sugihara. Sugihara…Bataan Death March. Japan is problematical, but from a Zionist perspective, ultimately okay.
The Netherlands: Yes, they have a huge problem of a growing indigenous Muslim population, but they know they have a problem. Root for them while you still can. Besides, it’s hard not to have a soft spot for the plucky Dutch after their Queen rode her bicycle during the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973.
Group F: Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia
Italy: Okay, so they were on the wrong side of World War II, the Italian Jewish community made out better than most communities in Allied countries, such as those in Poland, France, and Greece. Moreover, their President likes Israel almost as much as he likes attractive young women. Viva Italia!
New Zealand: On the one hand, the Kiwis have a snowball’s chance in Johannesburg of winning a match. On the other hand, the obsessively anti-Israel Helen Clarke and her Labor Party were voted out of office and replaced with the pro-Israel Conservatives. Okay to cheer for; just don’t expect them to win.
Paraguay: Nearly as many Nazi war criminals there as in Argentina. Absolutely no.
Slovakia: What? The more anti-Semitic half of the former Czechoslovakia? You must be joking.
Group G: Brazil, Ivory Coast, North Korea, Portugal
First, a note on Group G. Every World Cup has--in the pleasant, soothing terms of international soccer—a “Grupa Del Muerte”—a “Group of Death” so called where all four teams are good and anyone of them is capable of advancing. If one is talking solely about soccer, Group G is not the Group of Death, as Brazil should have a field day. It is a different story for us Zionists.
Brazil: Haven for ex-Nazis. Current President curries favor with the Iranians. Better they should lose.
Ivory Coast: Yet another member of the Third World bloc in the UN which routinely votes to condemn Israel. Also has a democracy deficit. The only reason to cheer for the Ivory Coast is that the other members of this group are such cholerias.
North Korea: A Stalinist dictatorship that sells nuclear weapons technology and Scuds to Syria, Iran, and other lovely places. I think not.
Portugal: Most people remember that 1492 was the year the Jews were finally expelled from Spain. 1493 was the year they were expelled from Portugal. May they merit an early exit from the World Cup.
Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile
Spain: Anti-Semitic then, anti-Israel now. There is nothing new under the Spanish sun.
Switzerland: The Swiss did everything they could to profit from the Nazis both during and after their tenure in Germany. Now, they are attempting to do the same thing with our friends in Iran. No.
Honduras: No real history of anti-Semitism here and a history of cordial relations with the Zionist entity. They are the pick of the litter in Group H.
Chile: Although it has the strongest democracy and the best economy of any country in South America, it is still hard to cheer very much for countries from that region. Still, if you must, you may do so without much enthusiasm.
In the final cheshbon, let’s pull for a USA-Australia final. Enjoy!