By Cristina Pestrea, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.
During the fourth day of the International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy and Human Rights: “Towards a Global Human Rights Culture: The Need for a Collective Alliance in the Protection & Promotion of Human Rights” organized by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, Emmanuel Nahshon, a diplomat from Israel, delivered a lecture on ‘Sport Diplomacy – The German-Israeli Example’.
Mr. Nahshon began by explaining and describing the complexity of the relations between Israel and Germany after World War II. During this period, Israel negotiated with Germany about compensation for the devastation caused by the Holocaust and through these negotiations, the relations between the two countries started to slowly develop and improve.
Mr. Nashshon continued by highlighting a particular form of relations between Germany and Israel, that of sport-based relations, particularly soccer. Soccer players from Israel received invitations to come and play in Germany. This inoffensive act had a symbolic meaning because it projected something deeply important: the normalization of relations between these two countries.
Mr. Nahshon emphasized how influential soccer can be by quoting an English coach who said ‘soccer is not a life and death question, is much more important than that’, demonstrating the extreme importance that this sport has for many people from all over the world.
He concluded by saying that after 70 years of extensive tension, violence and distrust between the two nations there are now some areas in which relations between Germany and Israel are essentially completely normalized, such as sports. Moreover, soccer can also represent a starting point in the process of building cooperation and mutual understanding, for example this could potentially be useful in the case of Israel and Palestine).
After the lecture, during the Questions and Answers session, Giovanni Tonnuti raised the issue of whether if it is just for societies to grant such importance to soccer, given the fact that soccer can at time represent political extremism. Mr. Nahshon answered that soccer is indeed a perfect instrument to represent the opposition of two political or cultural visions and explained how soccer can in fact have a negative impact on relations by fueling further cultural conflict. Mr. Nahshon also explored various other topics including the violation of human rights inside sports, the importance of music as cultural diplomacy and the potential that music combined with sports can have in solving conflicts and building tolerance. Mr. Nashon concluded by stating that that even if sport can sometimes imply violence (as boxing for example), at the end it can represent an extremely powerful and efficient tool with strong potential to foster fraternity and equality between societies.