Sunday, August 20, 2017

Coverage of Arab Sports in Palestine Bulletin and Palestine Post 1925 - 1948

Issam Khalidi
    The Palestine Bulletin (PB) was founded in January 1925 by Jacob Landau. Accordingly, the Palestine Bulletin published its last issue on 30 November 1932. Under a new ownership its name became The Palestine Post (PP) the following day, 1 December 1932. During its time as The Palestine Post, the publication supported the struggle for a Jewish Homeland in Palestine and openly opposed British policy restricting Jewish Immigration during the Mandate period. According to one commentator, "Zionist institutions considered the newspaper one of the most effective means of exerting influence on the British authorities".[1] In 1950, it changed its name to The Jerusalem Post.

    Zionist and Israeli anxiety has always centred on two questions: the Arab environment and world opinion. In building the Jewish state, the Zionists constructed in their own minds a dehumanized image of the Arabs as politically and socially unworthy. This helped them to dismiss the ethical problem of displacement and to justify the transformation of Palestine into a Jewish state. [2]The Zionists were able to diffuse their views and their reality over the views and reality of the Palestinian Arabs. A negative project –denial and blocking—entailed an equal and opposite positive project—diffusion.[3] In their mind Arabs are Oriental, therefore less human and valuable than Europeans and Zionists; they are treacherous, unregenerate, etc. [4]

   The Zionist movement harnessed all efforts to achieve its goals in Palestine. However, it faced an unexpected stiff resistance.  It was able to employ the British authorities in order to suppress this resistance. However, when it found that it could not achieve the Judaization of Palestine by increasing the number of the Jews, it intended to alienate the Arabs by pressing the British to put pressure on them in order to leave the country, and to be held accountable for the destruction that took place in the Palestine. Also, in order to achieve this goal, the Zionist media widely campaigned for alienating the Arabs culturally, and even denying their material and physical presence. [5] 
  Certainly, the Zionist sports media served in diffusing this campaign by intensifying the Zionist presence in Palestine, portraying the Jews as if they were the bulk of the population in Palestine, and the sole sports representative of Palestine regionally and internationally. Since mid-1920s until early 1930s, this newspaper reported about the Arabs as if they were bandits, honor killers and lovers of revenge. They were portrayed as a minority in Palestine, and were denied as a cultural entity.

  Most reports on sports in PB and PP were about international sports event, British sports (in Great Britain), British Mandate and Jewish teams. It also included YMCA's athletic activities and tournaments. In addition, it included news about sports in neighboring countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan. And about regional and international sports reports. PP also reported about Armenian football and boxing. It also included some news about sports activities in missionary schools, and annual sports meetings in government schools.

   Palestine Bulletin cited the Arab newspaper Filastin (which carried a nationalistic undertone and aimed to reveal a firm rejection toward Zionism), which referred to Government notices in Jewish settlement, Tel-Aviv for instance, in which Hebrew took first place, followed by English-language of the Mandatory:
"Falastin," referring to notices posted by the "Maccabee" football team in the streets announcing in Hebrew and English a match between its XI. and an English team, writes that the Hebrew topped the English. The newspaper states it has no desire to interfere with what people do so long as there is no one else to point it out, but draws attention to Government notices in Jewish settlement, Tel-Aviv for instance, in which Hebrew takes first place, followed by English-language of the Mandatory--and last, the unfortunate Arabic. Is there no official precedent in such matters? it asks. It points to the Tel Aviv railway-station and Tel Aviv Municipality notices as example. [6] 

  The Zionist leadership viewed establishing athletic federations and committees as a means of achieving overall Zionist goals of establishing and legitimating Zionist claims to Palestine. These official organizations helped represent Palestine as "Jewish," both regionally and internationally, and were seen as instrumental in achieving the leadership's national and political goals.   In April 1931, PB reported: Ten cyclists are leaving Jerusalem this morning for Europe. They are all members of Hapoel and will be present at the World Labour Olympiad, which takes place at the middle of June. They are going first to Afuleh and then to Haifa. From There they will go by boat to Marseilles. They are cycling through France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. They will be present at the Zionist Congress in Switzerland and will themselves take part in the Olympiad. Speaking to a representative of the Palestine Bulletin, the leader of the cyclists, Mr. Ben-Hanan said that they would be away for four months in all. They were the first Palestinian cyclists to cycle across Europe. Later, motor cyclists would leave and would also take part in the Olympiad which would last a week. Altogether Palestine would be represented by about 150 delegates. The ten who are leaving are finely built fellows and are wearing the Hapoel uniform and cap.”[7]

    It is a matter of fact that Arab sports lagged behind Jewish sport. The Jews came to Palestine from developed industrial societies. Definitely, they brought with them physical culture and the culture of sport. Reading this newspaper – mainly in the 1920’s - it comes to one’s mind that Arabs were bandits, honor killers and people void of values and civilization. The yishuv, and the Zionist movement that represented it, in consequence received powerful external support, both from many of its coreligionist elsewhere and from the greatest imperial power of the day, as well as from the League of Nations. [8] All the gauges of the economic, social, and political advancement of the yishuv – the massive import of capital, the inflow of highly skilled human capital, the community’s predominantly urban nature, its high degree of ideological homogeneity, its unique social makeup and governing structures – when taken together, indicate its capacity for generating considerable state power.[9]

    It is worth mentioning, that Palestine Football Association was established in 1928 by Jews, British and Arabs. It joined FIFA in 1929, and became dominated by the Jews.It’s the Zionist domination sparked the initial creation of the Arab Palestinian Sports Federation (APSF) in 1931 with Palestinians unwilling to legitimize Zionist colonization or serve as a fig leaf for a Zionist dominated institution. The APSF was founded at a time when the Palestinian national movement had to grapple with the fact that its traditional leadership was ineffective in the face of a refusal by the British mandatory administration to accord Palestinians the same degree of self-governance that it had granted other Arabs such as the Egyptians and the Iraqis.[10] The APSF functioned until 1939, therefore some clubs joined PFA. In 1943-1944 they began withdrawing from PFA. In 1944, APSF was re-established. At the end of 1947 it was expanded to 55 Arab clubs (few Armenian clubs were members of this federation).

    The newspaper was not critical of Arab sports, it was objective and informational. However, it is noted that sports reports about Arab sports were short and limited. In general, the newspaper's main concern was the British and Jewish sports in Palestine. It preferred to show its objectivity so it would gain the confidence of the British.
   Under the heading (Arabs Win Football Match) PB brought this news: "The football match between the “Maccabi” and the Arab team on Saturday afternoon resulted in a win of 2 to 1 in favour of the Arab."[11]
In October 1932, PB published the “Palestine Football Prospects 1932-33” where it gave a detailed and an objective report about the leagues and tournaments in Palestine including Arab clubs and the Arab Palestine Sports Federation which was established a year before.
    In March 1934 PP reported that “the Palestine Football League, run under the auspices of the Arab Sports Federation, is again in full sing. During the week the League Champions, The Arab Sports Club, defeated the Salesian [Salesian] Club of Haifa by two goals to nothing, this result places the Champions on the top of the League and with games in hand over their nearest rivals they look like retaining the Championship.” [12]

    Sports reports in PB from mid 1920s until September 1929 were included under the column 'Palestine From Day to Day'. In general, they were short and random. Later, sports news became similar to other Jewish sports columns. From a content aspect, the majority of notices were merely partial reports of soccer game results.[13]
   In general, athletic meetings between Arabs and Jews have been always subject to Political conditions. As colonizers, the Zionists believed that they were superior in many ways to the Arabs. They looked at them arrogantly. PP reported a boxing match between a 'Syrian' and a 'local' boxer, ignoring the Palestinian's national identity and his place of birth (the 'Syrian' was the Palestinian boxer Sanharib Saliba, he was born in Bethlehem), while describing the Jewish as a 'local': [14]
     The Maccabi Hall was filled to capacity by a fine sporting crowd to witness the contests between local and Arab boxers. There was disappointment among the spectators that only two "proper" fights were contested, the rest of the programme being matches between boxers of various clubs. The crowd, however, was repaid with the last fight in which Emile Avinari, a local favourite beat Sinharib Salliba, champion of Syria and Lebanon in a six-round contest. Although the Syrian weighed only a couple of pounds more than his opponent he appeared to belong to the heavy weight rather than the welterweight class. Emile lived up to his reputation, winning four of the six rounds, but not too easily. As predicted it was a match of technique against physical strength. In the opening round the local man fought continuously and in the second round used a fast right to the face which cut the Syrian's lip and caused his nose to bleed freely. This did not subdue Salliba, but only angered him and during his ferocious moments he repeatedly made the error of opening his guard which Emile used to his advantage. The Syrian was not so impressive after this. He hit often enough to the body but without effect. The referee separated both boxers on various occasions. It was not a surprise to see the Syrian champion revive in the last round. He had things his own way and had he combined strength with judgment in the earlier rounds he would have fared a lot better. Mr. Effrandi, a member of the control Egyptian Boxing Board of Control refereed the fight.[15]

   The period 1940-42 witnessed an increase of news in PP about Arab sports teams. The reason for this was, first: the participation of few Arab clubs in the league that was organized by the Jewish-dominated Palestine Football Association, second: the qualifications of some Arab clubs such as Shabab al-Arab enforced this newspaper (and others) to mention their achievements:

Shabab El Arab easily collected the full points in their Palestine League, Haifa Division game with Haifa Maccabi, scoring ten goals without any reply from Maccabi.[16]
    These sports reports ceased in 1943 due to the withdraw of the Arab teams from PFA. After the re-establishment of (the Arab) Palestine Sports Federation APSF in September, PP started to report about its  (APSF) activities, the first was a game between Dajani Club and Orthodox Club in Jerusalem.

 The Islamic SC. defeated Orthodox F.C. by two goals to nil in the final of the Palestine Sports Federation tournament, to win the Arab National Bank Shield. Jaffa's right winger, Isamil Najjar scored both goals in the second half. At the conclusion of the game, Ahmed Hilmi Pasha presented the Bank Shield to the captain of the Islamic S.C., Fawzi Shanti.” [17]

However, these reports ceased completely from mid-1945 until the end of 1947.

    In December 1945, the Arab League announced that its eseven member States would boycott all Jewish-produced goods from Palestine beginning January 1st 1946. The league’s secretary-general, Abdul Rahman Azzam Bey, said the boycott was ordered because Jewish industry in Palestine was “based on Zionist funds, collected in foreign countries, to serve a political purpose: the establishment of a Jewish national home and State in Palestine.”[18]

Later, PP responded to this Boycott:
    Problems created by the anti-Zionist boycott are dealt with in a leading article in the Christian daily "L'Orient" by its political by editor, M. Labake, in connection with the Tel Aviv Ski Club's decision no longer to visit the Lebanon. A letter from the Club had explained that in view of the anti-Zionist boycott they preferred to ski in Cyprus. M. Labake goes on to say that his article was written specially for consideration in Cairo, Baghdad and Damascus, that they might know that the boycott had harmed the Lebanon more than Palestine. The Lebanon was never a large client of Palestinian industry, but Palestine was an important supplier, and in certain cases an exclusive supplier. The Lebanon ceased obtaining from Palestine chemical and pharmaceutical products which could not be had from Europe or America, and Palestine had stopped buying Lebanese farm produce, which was now being destroyed. The smuggling of Palestinian goods was continuing however, and indeed becoming a kind of national institution. It was an expensive enterprise doomed to failure. The article demands that the Arab league should consider the payment of compensation to cover Lebanese losses, and concludes by asking why Lebanese obedience to the Arab League was so poorly repaid. It is understood that the "L'Orient" 's viewpoint is widely shared.[19]

Later PP reported:
    The friends Boys School, Ramallah held their Annual Field Day over the weekend and once again the meeting was full of interest, with the track and field events being run off with the usual keenness. The "boycott" reported to have been proclaimed against the sports appeared to have an opposite effect, as quite a number of people turned up to see how the boycott affected the sports. As a consequence, there seemed to be more people present than usual. Every seat in the tent was occupied, while the fences and wall surrounding the field were packed like sardines, with every roof top and balcony trembling under its crowd of watchers. The American Consul General Mr. L.C. Pinkerton received his usual great ovation when he appeared on the field, while hearty cheers were registered for Mrs. Pinkerton after she had presented the prizes and trophies at the conclusion of the meeting. [20]

   It is clear that this newspaper did not report enough about Arab sports. Underlying the Zionist attitude toward the Arabs was a combination of distaste and rejection. As a Zionist-oriented newspaper what was significant about it that it had a Zionist attitude toward the Arabs, an implicit disregard for the rights and aspiration of the Arab populace. It took a stance that was not supportive, and at the same time not hostile toward Arab sports. That was because reporting on sports at that time was a narrative of events rather than analysis  associated with political conditions in Palestine. 
 Sports reports in PB and PP were similar to its Hebrew and Arab counterparts during the Mandate period were short, random and shoved to the newspaper margins. Due to the abundance of athletic news on a daily basis, and despite the lack of analytical articles, this newspaper could be a sufficient source for writing sports history in Mandate Palestine.  

End notes:

[2] Alan R. Taylor, The Zionist Mind, (Beirut: The Institute For Palestine Studies, 1974).  p. 197
[3] Edward Said, The Question of Palestine (New York: Vintage Books, 1980), p. 21.
[4] Edward Said, The Question of Palestine, p.28.
[5] Elias Shufani, al-Moujaz fi Tarikh Filastin (A Summary of Palestine’s History), (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1998), p. 408.
[6] Palestine Bulletin, 24 March 1926. It appeared under the heading "Falastin," The "Maccabee and Hebrew”.
[7] Palestine Bulletin, 24 April 1931.
[8] Rashid Khalidi,The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (Boston:Beacon Press, 2007)  .p. 9.
[9] Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage, p.21.
[10] Mustafa Kabha, "The Palestinian press and the general strike, April - October 1936: Filastin as a case study," Middle Eastern Studies, 29:3 (2003), 169-189.
[11] Palestine Bulletin, 21 May 1928.
[12] Palestine Post, 12 March 1934.
[13]IlanTamir, Yair Galily, The Human Factor in the Historical Development of the Media: Israeli Sports Pages as a Case Study, The International Journal of History of Sport, Volume 28, 2011 - issue 18.
[14] See: Sanharib Saliba,
[15] Palestine Post, 26 February 1934.
[16] Palestine Post, 14 January 1942.
[17] Palestine Post, 6 June 1945. This news came under the title (Pan Arab Olympic Games).
[18] Vote Action Against Jewish Industry, Charging Tie With Zionist and Political Aims, New York Times, 4 December 1945.
[19] Palestine Post 15 March 1946
[20] Palestine Post, 27 May 1946.

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