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Refusal to compete with Israelis at Olympics is discrimination – analysis

CM 01/08/2021 15

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On July 24 an Algerian judo athlete named Fethi Nourine and his coach had their Olympic accreditation withdrawn and were sent home after Nourine refused to face Israel’s Tohar Butbul. Later a Sudanese athlete also didn’t show up to a match against the Israeli. For pro-Palestinian extremists this is considered a victory and it is termed withdrawing in “honor” rather than losing or facing Israeli opponents.  
At the same time Saudi athlete Tahani Al-Qahtani, a Saudi Arabian woman, did face her Israeli opponent Raz Hershko. Al-Qahtani lost but was widely praised in Israeli media and by others, and received backing at home in Saudi Arabia.  
The treatment of Israeli athletes is unique. No other country in the world has athletes that are so often treated like this due to political or diplomatic disputes between country. For instance, when Kosovo received full Olympic committee membership in 2014 the Serbian Olympic Committee President was asked if his players would compete against Kosovo. “Yes, of course, because we have to be part of the society…Personally, I had a similar situation when we (Yugoslavia) were banned from competing in the 1992 Olympics, so I insist that we look at this issue with sporting eyes and let the politicians do their job,” he said. 
This is sportsmanship where sport is put above politics and ethnic or religious issues. The treatment of Israel is entirely about hatred of Jews and nothing else in the Middle East. This is clear from the fact that no matter how awful other conflicts are all over the world, these same athletes don’t refuse to compete with one another. Pakistan and India may have differences over Kashmir, but their athletes compete. There may be wars from across the Sahel to Somalia, but war is generally postponed when it comes to the Olympics.  
It is one of the unique aspects of the treatment of Israel in the Middle East that illustrates how hatred of Israel and refusal to normalize with the state, which also pollutes Olympic sport now, is a unique phenomenon. While there are other states that lack recognition by some other states, like Kosovo, it doesn’t usually affect their athletes at the Olympics. Only in the Middle East is the view of Israel one of not just refusal to normalize because of a territorial dispute, but refusal to see the people who live in Israel as people. This has generally been coddled and excused by the international community, which never made recognition a priority. For that reason countries from Pakistan to Malaysia, far away from Israel, were always given a pass for non-recognition.  

The Abraham Accords are so significant precisely because they illustrate not only the importance of recognition, but the way sport and culture and tolerance of interfaith issues can grow out of normalization. There are no shortage of other athletes at the Olympics who face hurdles because of geopolitical disputes. Taiwan competes as “Chinese Taipei” at the Olympics due to the Nagoya Resolution which enables the island, which is not seen as an independent country by many, to compete but not under their own name, flag or anthem, according to reports. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is not recognized by any country besides Turkey, has also had struggles getting athletes to the Olympics.  “The former President of the IOC, the late Juan Antonio Samaranch, had made an offer to Turkish Cypriots to allow them to participate in all future Olympic Games under the Olympic flag,” a 2012 letter said. “Turkish Cypriots are willing to accept participation under the terms laid out by the former IOC President and to join the Games under the Olympic flag as individuals rather than under their own national flag.” 
Crimean athletes also ran into challenges as well after 2014. USA today noted in 2016 that “Crimean Artur Ayvazyan won gold in rifle shooting at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, competing under Ukraine’s flag. After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, like many athletes, he switched his allegiance from Ukraine to Russia. The decision may have cost him his last chance to win an Olympic medal. While Russia offers better living conditions and financial support for athletes, Ayvazyan, 43, is now stuck. A three-year “quarantine” period demanded by Ukraine means he can only compete within Russia. So while Russia and Ukraine’s top shooters are preparing for the games, Ayvazyan is staying put in the Crimean capital, Simferopol.” 
This illustrates that while many other countries and places have disputes which may impact Olympic sport, it doesn’t usually go as far as the athletes being boycotted. This is because athletes all over the world generally respect each other as fellow sports people. Only with Israel is the hatred and antisemitism and lack of recognition so deep that it goes as far as refusal to compete. This refusal to even shake the hand of Israelis is part of a Nazi-era discrimination and even surpasses the extremism of the Nazis at the Olympics in the 1930s. The brainwashing of people into hatred of Jews and Israelis in the region is so deep that the athletic discrimination goes far beyond just a national issue. They are encouraged not to see Israelis as people, and that is about not seeing Jews as people. This is not just random because there is only one Jewish state and it is not just a coincidence that this is the one state to which this is done. In a region where some people grew up hearing that Jews are “sons of pigs and apes” and in which accusations of enemies being “Jews” is common, and where chants of “Khaybar, Khaybar, ya Yahud” referring to an ancient battle against Jews, is common, this is the result. It is the result also because Iranian-backed groups like the Houthis have as a slogan “curse the Jews” and “death to Israel.” There is no other group they “curse.” While new coexistence inroads are being made across the region, some holdouts still have discriminatory views of Israel and Jews. While one hopes this will be reduced by the next Olympics, the propaganda in some regional media continues to push discrimination. 
This has led in the past to an athlete in 2016 refusing to shake the hand of an Israeli. The insinuation is that Israelis, as Jews, are beneath others, not even worth a handshake or customary decency. Only Israelis get this treatment systematically. Besides the numerous other territorial disputes and even religious wars, or wars where millions are killed and driven from their homes as refugees, there simply is no other example of athletes doing this to each other. That is part of the unique discrimination that exists at the Olympics, driven by far-right nationalist press and media linked to pro-Palestinian causes which depict those who refuse to compete as heroes and mock those who do compete with Israelis.  


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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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