Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera and Ambassador David Friedman. Photo courtesy of David Friedman

By Larry Gordon

After an illustrious all-star career as one of baseball’s best pitchers and the first major league ball player to be unanimously voted into the Hall of Fame, Mariano Rivera’s great career comes down to his support for Jews, Israel, and the Israel Defense Force.

Through his years as a New York Yankees closer, Rivera was serious and focused about slamming the door on opponents and achieving victories for one of the greatest championship teams in baseball history. All Yankees fans’ hopes for two decades rode on the back of Mariano.

By Larry Gordon

As a devout fundamentalist Christian, Rivera has developed closeness to the state of Israel over the years through a combination of his religious faith and the relationships he built with leading members of the New York Jewish community.

Now Rivera’s career and, indeed, the value of his extensive charitable work are being called into question because of the nature of his connection to and appreciation for Jews and Israel.

You thought for all those years that athletic ability and pitching acumen was the totality of the Panama-born Mariano Rivera. It turns out that beyond the accuracy and the strength of that great right arm, the Yankees closer for almost 20 years was a lover of Israel and an admirer of the goodness and the rightness that is evidenced in Israel and the Jewish people.

So now that the left-leaning mainstream media has discovered that Rivera is an admirer of both Israel and President Trump, the effort is being made to denigrate and even delegitimize the fact that he is an honored member of the all-important and hallowed Hall of Fame, the crowning achievement of his career.

The issue here is less about the Mariano we always admired as a great ballplayer and more about the matter that there is virtually nothing these days that the left in this country will not criticize in their effort to bring down conservatives and the right and to get at President Trump. And for some reason, it seems that regardless of what the issue is, when going after the president, Israel is added into the mix.

I’m certain that you have noticed that in the ongoing verbal battle between President Trump and the infamous congressional “squad,” the congresswomen’s disdain and criticism of Israel is always included — even though the issues on which the president and most Republicans differ with the squad are far more numerous than just the matter of the special relationship between Israel and the U.S.

But interestingly, it is President Trump more than the not-so-fabulous four who repeatedly and consistently calls the leftist squad — freshman congresswomen Cortez, Omar, Pressley, and Tlaib — people who harbor hostility and even hate for both the U.S. and Israel.

Now the four congresswomen, while they have expressed disdain and great criticism of Israel since being elected, have slightly toned down that rhetoric because they know that their Democratic colleagues in the House are overwhelmingly pro-Israel and supporters of the Jewish state, and it would dash a lot of their credibility if they continued their blistering putdowns of Israel.

But we know and the president knows that the motivation for much of the leftist activist actions is primarily about Israel and perhaps only secondarily about maneuvering in the direction of beginning impeachment proceedings against the president. That appears to be the logic that leads the president to take Israel with him on this political roller-coaster that is battling leftist members of Congress.

We know that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is a fan of President Trump, but should sports fans make an effort to examine what the politics of Jacob deGrom or CC Sabathia are before deciding to root for them? What about Giants quarterback Eli Manning? The football season is starting soon and these might be important issues someday.

Mariano Rivera blazed a trail for outstanding relief pitchers in baseball. Now he is putting himself and his past career on the line, not because of any illicit or wrongheaded behavior but because he supports the president of the United States and one of our greatest allies, Israel. Obviously, there is something wrong with that.

Notes On Occupation

This idea of occupied territory is not just old news; the concept itself is worn-out and, to a great extent, irrelevant.

Just the other morning, the news was reporting that Israel was demolishing illegally built homes of Palestinian Arabs on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It was the top of the hour and it was in the middle of a jet-lagged night for me, so I’m not sure who was reporting it, but I did not have the impression that it was anyone pontificating on any kind of editorial or journalistically slanted agenda.

It was plain old standard news copy, which is based on the old fake news that Jerusalem is Arab and the Jewish presence there constitutes what used to be the so-called occupation. It is more than 52 years since the 1967 Six Day War when Israel liberated and unified Jerusalem and has managed to effectively improve life for all city residents — both Arabs and Jews — with each passing year.

Jerusalem is at peace, with Arabs and Jews, for the most part, living and working together side by side, in peace. If you need proof of this reality you do not need to consult any UN agencies. All you have to do is walk around the Malcha Mall, a short distance from the Teddy Kollek Soccer Stadium, where Jewish and Arab couples and families shop and dine without any friction or difficulty and without occupying or oppressing one another in any way.

In central Jerusalem, take a nighttime stroll through the Mamilla Mall, and all kinds of Jews and Arabs, identifiable by their dress and sometimes their head coverings, are enjoying the great amenities that Jerusalem has to offer.

One afternoon last week, we strolled through the Arab shuk in the Old City on the way to the Western Wall. It was a beautiful, nostalgic amble where we were surrounded by Jerusalem Arab merchants who just wanted one thing from us—that we should buy something, anything.

Israel’s evacuation and uprooting of illegally built Arab homes near the Jerusalem security wall is being internationally protested by the UN and the European Union. When the Israeli courts rule against homes built by Jews in Judea and Samaria and demand that they be dismantled, there is never any such protest or outcry from these agencies.

Both the Jews and Arabs in their respective situations are, unfortunately, forced to leave their homes. Their lives and the lives of their families are disrupted. There is great cost and inconvenience involved. But the law is the law. The so-called international community does not see it that way. They respect the Israeli court’s decisions that benefit Arab residents but protest the same court’s rulings when they benefit Israel, as was the case this week in Jerusalem.

The unhappiness with the evolving Trump peace plan is that it relegates the two-state solution and the occupation to the dustbin of history where it belongs. The U.S., the Gulf States, and Israel are ready for new forward-thinking action. Those who are not will simply be left behind.

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