Super Bowl LVII in 2023 was the most-watched U.S. telecast in history, and with well over 100 million people expected to tune in on Feb. 11, Super Bowl Sunday will provide one of the biggest platforms on Earth for pro-Israel groups to attempt to justify Israel’s ongoing genocidal war on Gaza. The Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism, which is owned by Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the NFL’s New England Patriots, has purchased a $7 million TV ad spot on Super Bowl Sunday to “Stop Jewish Hate.” Kraft’s ties to Israel run deep, from hefty donations to AIPAC to a long history of business deals in the country. Edge of Sports host Dave Zirin takes aim at the influence of Zionism in professional sports in this special edition of “Choice Words.”
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Dave Zirin: Welcome to Edge of Sports, brought to you by The Real News Network. I’m Dave Zirin, and I have some choice words about New England Patriots owner, Bob Kraft, and a $7 million Super Bowl ad that I am not looking forward to seeing.
Okay, look, New England Patriots’ 82-year-old owner, Robert Kraft, writes seven-digit checks to the right-wing Israeli lobbying machine AIPAC. But his ties to Israel run far deeper than the occasional donation. The multi-billionaire married his late wife, Myra, in Israel in 1963 when Kraft, then just 22, was older than the nation itself. Together, Myra and Robert set up numerous business, athletic, and charitable ties to Israel, a record of which is proudly proclaimed on the Kraft company website.
In particular, the Kraft Group boasts of its Touchdown in Israel program, where NFL players are given free, highly organized vacations to see the Holy Land and come back to spread the word about the only democracy in the Middle East. Kraft also attends fundraisers for the Israeli defense forces who currently, in an open view of the world, are committing war crimes in Gaza.
Now, as Israel wages war against the civilians of Gaza, Kraft is again flexing his financial and political muscles in order to defend the indefensible. His Foundation of Combat Antisemitism, or FCAS, will be spending an estimated $7 million to buy a Super Bowl ad titled “Stop Jewish Hate” that will be seen by well over 100 million people.
Under Kraft’s direction, the ad’s goal is to create a propaganda campaign to counter the reports and images from Gaza that young people are consuming on social media. Without a sense of irony or the horrors happening on the ground, Kraft says he is giving $100 million of his own money to the Foundation Against Antisemitism because hate leads to violence — Just not violence against Palestinians, apparently.
Let’s be clear. What Kraft is doing politically and what he’ll be using the Super Bowl as a platform to do is dangerous. He appears to think that any criticism of Israel is inherently antisemitic. For Kraft, it is Jews like myself, rabbis, and Holocaust survivors calling for a ceasefire and a free Palestine that are part of the problem. And Kraft seems to think that opposition to Israel, the IDF, and the AIPAC agenda is antisemitism.
There is a Red Sea of distance, as I’ve written, between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Antisemitism is the pernicious hatred of a beautiful religion and culture that has been with us for over 5,000 years. Anti-Zionism means opposing a once negligible 125-year-old colonial project in the Middle East.
Zionism was a minor strain in Jewish life until the Holocaust, where, in a state of unspeakable trauma, Zionism rose triumphant after World War II with a new state built on the backs and land of the Palestinian people, a new outpost of what columnist Bari Weiss, with shameless racism, calls the West, albeit located in the Middle East. Now, for Kraft and Bari Weiss, building a highly militarized nuclear state built on stolen land is the only true hedge against another Holocaust.
Cementing this idea that to be anti-Zionist means that you are anti-Semitic has also been the lifelong project of Israel’s corrupt prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu attempts to shame anyone on the left who dares criticize Israel as crypto antisemites. Even the rabbis calling for a free Palestine are not free from this slander.
But right-wing Christian nationalists, with their belief in a Jewish state existing alongside their conviction that we’re all going to hell, are welcome in Netanyahu’s Israel and Kraft’s coalition.
And the greatest foghorn of this evangelical, right-wing, love Israel hate the Jews perspective is, of course, Donald Trump. And let’s talk about Robert Kraft and his relationship with Donald Trump.
You see, Kraft, while speaking of being troubled by events like the Charlottesville Nazi march and the right-wing massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, counts Donald Trump as a close friend, and even donated $1 million to his 2016 presidential inauguration.
To be clear, one who provides cover for the most powerful and public antisemite in the history of US politics should never be taken seriously on how we can best fight antisemitism. And no one who funds AIPAC and the IDF and opposes a ceasefire amid the carnage should be allowed a commercial platform at the Super Bowl.
But given that the big game is always an orgy of militarism, blind patriotism, and big budget commercials that lie through their teeth, perhaps that ad could not be more appropriate. We can do better than Kraft’s perspective on how to fight antisemitism. Morally, we don’t have a choice.
For The Real News Network and Edge of Sports, I’m Dave Zirin.
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