David Blatt on Israel-Gaza conflict: ‘This war is Israel’s most justified’

Yoav Borovitch, Globes OnlineDo you support the operation?

David Blatt, Cavaliers coach: Absolutely. In my opinion, this war is Israel’s most justified war I can remember in recent years. I’m really sorry about what’s happening in Gaza, but there’s no doubt that we had to act there, so that Israel will have quiet there once and for all, and we can live in peace.”

Cavaliers coach David Blatt knows first hand the issues facing Israel, along with the moral conflict involved in Israel’s response to rocket fire on their civilians from heavily populated centers of Gaza by the terrorist organization, Hamas.

The conflict has hit a lot of nerves around the world. It has drawn protests and counter protests in the United States and has caused violence (much of it spurred by suddenly awakened anti-Semitism) around the world. This is an extremely divisive issue with no easy answer. The images of dead children in the Gaza Strip are hard to ignore and hard not to ask questions and demand answers for.

Few in the U.S. and in the NBA world have commented on or ventured into these murky waters.

Dwight Howard posted a “#FreePalestine” tweet, but quickly deleted it when pro-Israel followers attacked him on Twitter. So too did Amar’e Stoudemire (who converted to Judaism) and Metta World Peace. Most interestingly, Stoudemire’s post was an Instagram of an Israeli and Palestinian child holding hands with the caption: “Pray for Palestine.” That seems pretty innocuous, but for many this is a zero-sum game. It is very, very personal even with no personal stake in the fight.

Blatt does have a personal stake in the fight though.

He played in the basketball league in Israel from 1981-93 and then coached there from 1993-2005, most notably with Maccabi Tel Aviv from 2001-03 and then again from 2010-14. In 2014, Maccabi Tel Aviv won the Euroleague title under his guidance. All three of his children served in the Israel Defense Force, the Israeli army, and they still live in Israel. That is his home too.

The answers to this conflict are not cut and dry. Not by a long shot.

Blatt comes from it knowing the trials Israeli citizens have gone through in this and previous conflicts with Hamas. There is another side too, and that is the human toll from the citizens in Gaza. The ones who are held captive by a “government” that perpetuates terror and uses them as shields.

This has been a frustrating conflict for that reason alone. There is a massive human toll that seems wholly unnecessary. Frankly, it is unnecessary. If Hamas would focus more on creating infrastructure and serving the needs for residents in Gaza rather than attacking its neighbor. Or if Israel felt it could trust Gaza not to attack it so it can release the blockade and allow normal diplomatic relations.

The whole conflict has put everyone on edge. No one in the NBA would know that more than Blatt or Kings forward Omri Casspi.

Casspi is the only Israeli in the NBA right now. He is back home in Tel Aviv to play for the national team and is like every other citizen when the bomb sirens go off. Everyone is on edge over the threat coming from Gaza, even with Iron Dome in place to shoot down any rockets projected to land in cities and populated areas.

“Everyone is scared and on edge,” Casspi told Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. “My dog (Butch) follows me everywhere, even into the bathroom. I tried to sleep last night, but then the sirens go off, and you can hear when the Iron Dome missiles connect with an incoming rocket. The whole house trembles. My sister and my parents, we just run to the nearest bomb shelter. Believe me, this is just terrible.”

No one should have to live under these conditions — Israeli or Palestinian.

Sports stars are not going to solve the conflict in the long term. They will not help passions die down. Sports remain a prism reflecting our society. They can try though.

Casspi responded to Howard’s tweet with a passionate plea stating the number of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza. He told Voisin that Howard called him after his tweet.

And, as Voisin reported, Casspi has worked with Palestinian children in the past. He believes he can help bring peace between two people constantly warring.;

This conflict is impacting everyone there. And it has affected some in the NBA family. Hopefully it ends soon so there can be peace and comfort for those who have lost so much already.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily