New Zealand on show at Twickenham…and the United Nations

November 6, 2015 by Michael Kuttner
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As far as New Zealanders and many Australians are concerned the rugby world cup competition every four years is the most looked forward to event on the sporting calendar…writes Michael Kuttner

Michael Lawrence and Michael Kuttner

Michael Lawrence and Michael Kuttner

I realise that the annual horse race of the Melbourne Cup is also a hot favourite but nothing can come close to the 80 minutes of adrenalin boosting frenzy which the rugby final generates. With extensive TV coverage and an audience in a large variety of diverse countries this competition attracts ever-increasing audiences and fans.

It therefore should come as no surprise that even in Israel this event has become very popular not only amongst expatriates from rugby playing countries but also amongst native Israelis who have been brought up on a weekly diet of soccer. Actually the local rugby scene is very active and the national team has slowly been working its way up the international league tables. Olim from countries such as the UK, Australia, NZ, France, South Africa and Georgia amongst other places have contributed to the growing popularity of the sport. Media exposure has also boosted it as has the experience of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of post army Israelis who have traveled down under and been exposed to real rugby in action.

The timing of the final game between Australia and New Zealand couldn’t have been better for Shabbat observing Israelis. We had transitioned from summer to winter time a week before and therefore the starting time of 6pm. was a comfortable half hour after the end of Shabbat. In previous competitions we had watched the game at a pub in Jerusalem together with a crowd of fanatic rugby supporters from all over the world. Although the same venue was showing it again I would not have made it in time for the haka and kick off.

Fortunately, Michael Lawrence an expatriate Kiwi from Wellington lives in a town only 5 minutes by car from us and he had already advised on his Facebook page that he would be showing the game on a big screen. Therefore immediately after Ma’ariv (evening prayers) I grabbed my car keys and made a dash for his house.

It was easy to find his place because hanging prominently at the front entrance was the New Zealand flag. There was a slight panic at first because it seemed that the computer link to the game was not working. However after some frantic hi-tech manipulations the connection was successfully made and projected onto the white wall. He and I were the only Kiwis present, the others representing USA, Australia and South Africa, parents and youngsters alike. Settling into a comfortable chair we watched the preliminaries and then braced ourselves for the anticipated action.

From Kibbutz Yizreel in the north to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and many places in-between, rugby enthusiasts in the Holy Land cheered on their favourite team. The final had promised to be a memorable clash between two long-standing rivals and so it turned out in reality. The skill, athletic agility and raw power on display combined with inspiring captaining made for compelling viewing for the entire duration of the game. It was interesting to observe South African fans and even many Aussies cheering on the All Blacks by the time the final whistle blew. Of course essential parts of the atmosphere were the shouts of support and expressions of disapproval at the referee’s decisions.

Experts assessed that this final was the best yet and who could disagree. The All Blacks demonstrated that they are truly world champions in every respect.

After the presentation of the Webb Ellis Trophy and once the euphoria had died down somewhat I could not but reflect on the stark contrast between the awesome display of New Zealand’s rugby prowess on the field and the dismal display of inept diplomacy by NZ’s Foreign Minister at the UN. A more glaring example of unprepared, misdirected and aimless antics would be hard to find.

Using rugby as an apt analogy it is apparent that Murray McCully’s ability to achieve a positive goal is way beyond his capabilities. Instead of recognizing his limitations and severe lack of preparation, as well as his inability to understand the attainable end game plan he plows on regardless. Kicking for touch in an effort to be inoffensive does nothing to advance victory on the field. Ignoring the basic hate and incitement which denies any Jewish historic and legal validity, means that no matter how many times he may hope for a try and conversion, the ball will end up in the dead ball area and we are back to square one. Expecting the referee (the UN) to be a neutral arbitrator is pie in the sky tactics. If he bothered to look at replays of previous encounters he would soon realize that he was hopelessly outclassed and ought to retire from the field of play.

Proof, as though any more was needed, of current incompetence, can be seen in the latest run of play. After much ballyhoo it seems that as a result of feedback from both sides (Israel and the PTA), Mr. McCully is vacillating and thinking of making changes to the proposed resolution. However in a sign that the game plan has not been properly thought through the following piece of muddled thinking hit the news: apparently the resolution at the UN will ask both sides not to question the integrity of the other side or its leaders in a bid to build trust. At a time when PTA leaders and media on a daily basis deny, denigrate and delegitimize Israel, when Abbas runs to the International Criminal Court and UN Human Rights Council accusing Israel of extrajudicial executions of those who stab and murder, this pathetic plea is produced. Build trust? How do you build trust with those who glorify, honour and sanctify jihad and martyrdom? Is it any wonder that this fruitless exercise is doomed to failure?

Conspicuously absent is any firm direction from the coach (the PM). Is he really happy with the flawed tactics of his Foreign Minister or doesn’t he actually care? In the absence of such leadership the captain finds himself in the wrong league, continually offside and committing every blunder in the book. It is well past the time when he needs to be shown the yellow card and sent to the sin bin. If he keeps making moves which attract penalties he needs to be given a red card and sent off the field to spend the rest of his career on the back bench.

It is painfully obvious that the All Blacks brilliant victory will never be emulated by politicians, at least not those currently on the field. As we bask in the triumph of New Zealand’s sporting brilliance we can only hope that someone will blow the final whistle on the politicians as soon as possible.

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel where he is J-Wire’s correspondent.   


One Response to “New Zealand on show at Twickenham…and the United Nations”
  1. Andrew Blitz says:

    This is the best op-end column Jwire has ever published.

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