Before launching into a discussion of which countries should be cheered for and against in Pool A, the Zionist’s Guide to the World Baseball Classic (ZGWBC) is compelled to digress to point out the difference between the present task as compared to that posed by the recent FIFA World Cup.
A certain former U.S. President once referred to ISIS as basically Al Qaeda’s “J.V. Team” and was, therefore, a matter of little pressing concern. The World Baseball Classic, though, is a “J.V.” endeavor as compared to the World Cup L’havdil and not to explicitly compare vicious Islamic terrorist groups to international sporting competitions like the World Cup and World Baseball Classic, but the Zionist’s Guide’s task for the World Baseball Classic is very different than that required by the World Cup. The latter event featured such problematic countries as Iran, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Poland and Qatar. By contrast, the countries participating in the World Baseball Classic are a veritable walk in the park.
Based on histories of anti-Semitism and oppression, Pool C’s Great Britain–from Hugh of Lincoln to Jeremy Corbyn–is probably the worst of a generally favorable lot. As for the remaining European teams–the Czech Republic, Italy, and the Netherlands–one could do a whole lot worse if one were seeking out countries with anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activism.
With that introduction, let’s look at Pool A, whose games will take place in Taichung on the island of Taiwan. Pool A consists of the Netherlands, Cuba, Italy, Panama, and Taiwan.
Until the emergence of the United States, no country in the modern world was as favorable for Jews as the Netherlands. The Dutch Jewish community thrived in an era when Jewish lives in the rest of Europe were cruel, nasty, brutish, and short. Dutch beneficence towards the Jews, and to Israel, has continued to the present day. The Dutch can be cheered for without hesitation.
Cuba once had a vibrant Jewish community, beginning in the first quarter of the 20th Century until Fidel Castro seized power. Since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the community has declined. Moreover, the Cuban government–true to its communist character–has been a strident and persistent critic of Israel. Even if the squad features current major leaguers, like Andy Ibanez of the Tigers and Luis Robert of the White Sox (the ZGWBC assumes that since they already defected once, they do not need to do so again), Cuba rates a thumbs down.
While not as exemplary as the Netherlands, Italy is another European country with a relatively benign attitude towards its Jewish inhabitants. Italy, especially Rome, has been home to a Jewish community since before the destruction of the Second Temple. Italian Jews are proud of their country and have never been in a haste to leave it. Similar to Israel, the Italian Baseball Team consists mostly of American-born players, and it can be cheered for with appropriate gusto.
Panama has a thriving Jewish community, the largest in Central America. The community has multiple synagogues, day schools, and kosher restaurants. Panama has always maintained cordial relations with Israel and supported it in international fora. The country has even had two Jewish presidents–Max Delvalle Maduro (1967) and Eric Arturo Delvalle Cohen-Henriquez (1985-1988). Neither former president, though, was added to the Panamanian Baseball Team roster. One can cheer for the team anyway.
Host nation Taiwan or Chinese Taipei or the Republic of China (chose one) (or not) has a small Jewish community and no history of anti-Semitism. Because of its diplomatic relations with the other China (note: the ZGWBC does not consistently adhere to a One China Policy), Israel does not have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan. This is ironic and unfortunate, as Taiwan is the subject of more diplomatic cold shoulders than even the Jewish state. Still, Israel and Taiwan have a vigorous trading relations, and if it were not for the irrational political prerogatives of the People’s Republic of China, Israel and Taiwan would no doubt be technologically-advanced and heavily-armed besties.
The opening game of the WBC will be Tuesday, March 7, as the Netherlands takes on Cuba. Wear orange. Or at least use an orange spit cup.