Israeli athletes are again harassed at a sports event, this time in the UAE. The singling out of the Jewish state is more than about sports, it’s about opposing our very existence
Imagine an international sports event in Israel where the national anthems and flags of Arab states are banned and Arab athletes are systematically harassed and discriminated. It would be a field day for Israel haters worldwide who could for once back up their slanderous claim that the Jewish state is “racist”. Needless to say, it will never happen since it violates the democratic and Jewish values of Israel.
The shameful racist treatment this week of Israeli judokas by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosts is no surprise. The harsh realities of the Arab and wider Muslim world’s hostile attitudes towards the Jewish state that are by no means limited to sports alone.
In flagrant violation of international sports norms, The Arab hosts in Abu Dhabi banned the Israeli flag with the Star of David and the Israeli national anthem “Hatikvah”.
The racist harassment started even before the Israeli athletes arrived to the international judo tournament. The United Arab Emirates does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and demanded that the Israeli athletes pick up their entry visas in Turkey. However, the Arab hosts changed their mind in the last moment and demanded that the Israelis travel via Jordan instead.
Despite this brazen discrimination, the Israeli judokas performed admirably. Tal Flicker who won gold for Israel, proudly sang the Israeli national anthem while the tournament organizers played the official music of the International Judo Federation (IJF). The IJF flag was raised instead of the Israeli flag.
The Arab hosts displayed the same racist behavior towards the other Israeli medal winners Gili Cohen, Or Sasson and Peter Paltchik. After being defeated by the Israeli judoka Tohar Butbul, the UAE athlete Rashad Almashjari refused the customary handshake with the Israeli.
UAE’s Judo Federation’s president Mohammad Bin Thaloub reportedly apologized to the Israeli Judo association’s head Moshe Ponto for the snubbed handshake, according to the International Judo Federation.
In a shameful Orwellian statement, the International Judo Federation’s president Marius Vizer said:
“I consider, that even without the flag and anthem of Israel, that their team had been treated very well with high respect during this event.” I doubt that the Romanian-born Marius Vizer would have felt the same way if the national flags and anthems of his native Romania or adopted home Hungary were to have been banned at an international tournament.
“Such delicate issues between countries, governments and nations cannot be solved overnight and cannot be solved through the sport immediately”, Vizer continued. However, the “delicate issues” of explicit racism towards Israel, continue unabated nearly 70 years after the rebirth of the Jewish state.
While the main culprits are the anti-Semitic regimes of the Arab and Muslim world, much of the international community has for too long tolerated and even embraced this anti-Jewish racism. The Israeli gold medalist Flicker was described by international sport commentators as a representative of the fictitious country “International Judo Federation” instead of Israel.
The racist Muslim sport boycotts against Israel athletes have by no means been limited to judo alone. In 2003, Iran boycotted the Israeli soccer team at the Special Olympics World Summer Games. In 2009, the Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer was denied a visa to participate in an international tournament in Dubai.
The boycotts against Israeli athletes have not been limited to countries that have no formal diplomatic ties with Israel. After being defeated by the Israeli judoka Or Sasson at the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Egyptian athlete Islam El Shehaby refused to shake the hand of the Israeli opponent. This blatant racism exists nearly 40 years after Egypt signed a “peace deal” with Israel and after Jerusalem vacated the Sinai Peninsula to the last grain of sand. While today’s Egypt is practically Jew-free, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories thrive and most Egyptians still reject Israel’s right to exist within any borders.
In fact, the reason the Jewish state’s soccer teams regularly participate in European rather than Asian groups is because of the widespread support for anti-Israel boycotts among both radical and “moderate” Muslim states.
Unfortunately, this kind of medieval Jew-hatred in the 21st century is not only limited to the totalitarian Middle East. In 2009, the authorities in the Swedish city Malmo tried to cancel a Davis Cup tennis match between Sweden and Israel. Malmo’s former mayor Ilmar Reepalu did not want to host or even shake hands with the Israeli athletes. After international pressure, the event took place but spectators were barred from watching the games.
In an interview with the Swedish media, the former Swedish mayor Reepalu was asked who he hated the most in the world. He could have named Saddam Hussein or any other of the world’s ruthless dictators from Iran to North Korea. Instead, Malmo’s mayor chose Israel’s democratically elected former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Thousands of anti-Israel protestors in the southern Swedish city rioted outside the tennis arena against the police, which was was forced to bring in riot vehicles from neighboring Denmark. Lars Ohly, the former leader of the Swedish Left Party, delivered a speech to the anti-Israeli mob while wearing a keffiyeh headscarf on which Israel was erased from the map.
What was supposed to be an exciting tennis tournament between two democracies, turned into a shameful anti-Semitic hate festival that united Leftists, Islamists and Neo-Nazis. The racist demonization of Israel is not limited to sports and extends to everything from whitewashing Arab aggression and Jewish history at the UN to BDS pogroms at Western academic campuses.
The “normalization” between the Muslim world and Israel remains largely a pipe dream. More importantly, 2000 years after the Romans renamed occupied Judea as “Palestine”, 72 years after the Holocaust and 69 years after the rebirth of the Jewish state, the hunting season on the Jewish people remains very much in fashion in a supposedly civilized and “anti-racist” West.
Only now the difference is that a powerful, independent Jewish state will not put up with it anymore.