The quarterfinals have arrived, and only the big boys of international football are left. And Morocco.
Tomorrow, the quarters begin with Croatia taking on Brazil. Reasons to cheer for Croatia: Since its founding from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia has been a consistent support of Israel in diplomatic circles. Recent votes in the United Nations are emblematic of this pattern.
Reasons to cheer against Croatia: After the Nazi conquest of Yugoslavia in the the spring of 1941, a Croatian puppet state was established. This state, led by the fascist Ustaše, were enthusiastic supporters of the Third Reich. The Croatian government sent troops to serve on the Eastern Front, and, most significantly, participated in the Shoah.
Reasons to cheer for Brazil: It’s Brazil. It’s a beautiful, sunny country full of happy people who like to dance, and their soccer team plays like it represents a beautiful, sunny country full of happy people who like to dance. Plus, Brazil is home to over 100,000 Jews who live largely free from anti-Semitism.
Reason to cheer against Brazil: Newly elected president of Brazil, Lula da Silva, was endorsed by none other than Noam Chomsky. Now, it is entirely possible that Chomsky’s endorsement failed to influence a single Brazilian voter in the recent election. Nevertheless, for the purposes of the Zionist’s Guide to the World Cup (ZGWC), Chomsky’s support is more than enough to root for Croatia.
The second game tomorrow features the Netherlands and Argentina.
Reasons to cheer for the Netherlands: For over 500 years (except for the Shoah), the Netherlands has been a safe place for Jews to live and to thrive. The Dutch government has been a consistent support of Israel over the years. In fact, it is difficult to generate reasons not to root for the Netherlands.
Reasons to cheer against the Netherlands: During the Shoah, over 70% of the Dutch Jewish community was murdered. There were Dutch units of the SS. In recent years, there have been some prominent Dutch political figures who have been virulently anti-Israel.
Reasons to cheer for Argentina: Argentina, with over 180,000 Jews, has the largest Jewish community in Latin America. Also, Argentina has Leonel Messi, and pretty much everyone loves Leonel Messi, including many Israeli soccer fans. Further, from what can be discerned, the feeling appears to be mutual.
Reasons to cheer against Argentina: On July 18, 1994, the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 85 people and wounding more than 200. Hezbollah and Iranian operatives are widely suspected being responsible. No one has ever been charge with the crime. In no small part, the government of former president and current vice president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has actively obstructed the investigation. In 2015, Prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered hours before he was deliver a 300 page statement accusing Kirchner of covering up Iran’s role in the bombing.
On Saturday, Morocco takes on Portugal.
Reasons to cheer for Morocco: The Abraham Accords.
Reasons to cheer against Morocco: Morocco, with its unlikely advancement to the quarterfinals, has become the bearer of all of the hopes and aspirations of the so-called “Arab Street.” Unfortunately, despite the advent of the Abraham Accords, the hopes and aspirations of the so-called “Arab Street” still contain an uncomfortable amount of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment. This predicament makes it very difficult for the ZGWC to cheer for Morocco, even in the face of rapidly expanding Israel-Morocco trade ties, as recently reported in The Times of Israel. If they were to beat Portugal, no doubt the team will wave the Palestinian flag as part of its victory celebration. If the Atlas Lions are incapable of segregating their political sentiments from their footballing prowess, than the ZGWC will respond accordingly.
Reasons to cheer for Portugal: The ZGWC will once more turn to the memory of Aristides de Sousa Mendes and the more than 10,000 Jews he help save from wartime France during the Shoah. Also, in certain UN votes, Portugal will typically vote with other western European nations in support of Israeli positions.
Reasons to cheer against Portugal: Portugal was essentially Judenrein for nearly 400 years, beginning in 1497. Even when Jews were allowed to publicly exist in Portugal, the population was never large.
Finally, England faces off against France (See Battle of Crecy).
Reasons to cheer for England: The Tory government of Rishi Sunak has been publicly supportive of Israel. It is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the world, outside of Israel and the United States. The English were responsible for the Balfour Declaration.
Reasons to cheer against England: England expelled its Jews 200 years before the Spanish and Portuguese did. The Foreign Office disdained Israel in the past, disdains Israel currently, and plans on disdaining Israel in the future. And don’t forget the BBC.
Reasons to cheer for the French: Emmanuel Macron has been publicly supportive of Israel. Napoleon emancipated the Jews. In the years following the establishment of Israel, the French helped arm the Jewish state. During the 1956 Suez Crisis and subsequent war, the French were Israel’s biggest supporters and suppliers.
Reasons to cheer against the French: Charles de Gaulle despised Israel. François Mitterand was certainly no friend of either Israel or the Jewish people. Vichy France did everything it could to assist the Nazis in the Shoah. Oh, and who can forget the Dreyfus Affair?
In the end, good luck trying to sort all of this out. Enjoy the matches–if you can.