At the tail end of First Take’s extended discussion today about the ongoing debacle between the NBA and China, Stephen A. Smith had one final take he wanted to get off. He began auspiciously, if not with his trademark eloquence: “I would remind you that, throughout this world, one of the things that exists is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Shocking no one, host Molly Qerim just about broke her neck trying to rush to the commercial break:
I’m pretty sure Max Kellerman wasn’t the only one on set making that face.
The funny thing is, Stephen A. was actually making a good point—just not for the reasons he thought. It is true that the vast majority of public figures are exceedingly wary of wading into the Israel-Palestine conflict out of fear of offending the sensibilities of those who refuse to countenance any criticism of Israel, knowing the swift and forceful backlash headed their way if they do. For that reason, it is more or less unchallenged that Israel-Palestine is “too complicated” and “too risky” for the savvily self-interested to opine about. No one wants to get Ilhan Omar’d.
The difference between Israel-Palestine and China-Hong Kong, then, is only that Israel has been more successful in branding its conflict with those it oppresses as genuinely above reproach than China has thus far been with its dealings with Hong Kong. In fact, when comparing the American media coverage of and political response to Israel-Palestine with China-Hong Kong, the main difference is that all the powerful political forces in the U.S. are united in their alignment in support of Israel and in opposition to China. Literally the only thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on nowadays is that it’s bad to kowtow to China, but it’s good to capitulate to Israel.
Stephen A.’s only problem is that he takes exactly the wrong lesson from this. The point he seems to be making isn’t that Israel-Palestine’s presence in political no man’s land is bad and only serves to protect Israel from the criticism it deserves, but instead the opposite, that China-Hong Kong should be placed right alongside Israel-Palestine as terrible things no one in their right mind should want to call out publicly. This fits well with his prior statements on the matter, where he called Daryl Morey “childish” for standing up for a cause. To Stephen A., no value is as sacred or adult as shutting up when there’s money to be had.