Anti-Semitism at Olympics by Muslim nations keeps age-old animosities alive

by WorldTribune Staff, August 11, 2016

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has reprimanded the Saudi and Lebanese Olympic delegations for their open “hostility” toward Israeli athletes at the Rio Olympic Games.

The treatment of Israel’s athletes is “shocking but not surprisingly,” Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel group Stand With Us, said in a statement on Aug. 10. “The Lebanese and Saudi delegations obviously have the wrong idea about the Olympic Games.”

Israel’s Yarden Gerbi reacts after winning the bronze medal of the women’s 63 kg judo competition at the Rio Olympics Games on Aug. 9. /Rex Features via AP
Israel’s Yarden Gerbi reacts after winning the bronze medal of the women’s 63 kg judo competition at the Rio Olympics on Aug. 9. /Rex Features via AP

Confrontations with delegations of nations traditionally hostile to Israel have marred an otherwise successful Olympics for Israel’s 47-member team. Judo fighter Yarden Gerbi won the bronze medal, making her Israel’s first medal winner since the 2008 Olympics.

“Instead of using the events to forget animosity and promote peace between people, they have brought their brainwashed minds to Rio,” Rothstein said. “How unfortunate that they could not implement the good, peaceful intentions of the Olympics, and instead have used it as a forum to spread hate and continued rejection of peace.”

Saudi judo athlete Joud Fahmy was criticized when she forfeited a first-round match in what the Israeli press described as a tactic to avoid facing Israel’s Gili Cohen in the second round.

Previously, the IOC issued a reprimand to the head of the Lebanese Olympic delegation after he blocked Israeli athletes from entering a bus that the teams were supposed to share to reach the opening ceremony.

Instead, Olympic organizers placed the Israeli athletes on a “special vehicle,” said Israeli sailing team trainer Udi Gal.

“The bus driver opened the door, but this time the head of the Lebanese delegation blocked the aisle and entrance,” Gal said on Facebook. “The organizers wanted to avoid an international and physical incident and sent us away to a different bus.”

“How is it possible that they let something like this happen and on the opening night of the Olympic Games?” he said.

Miri Regev, Israeli minister of culture and sports, said the Lebanese incident was “anti-Semitism, pure and simple, and the worst kind of racism.”

The Lebanese delegation head, Saleem al-Haj Nacoula, who was reportedly hailed in Lebanon as a hero, told Arabic media that he was “surprised to see the Israeli delegation approaching and trying to get on.”

“I told the bus driver to close the door, but a trainer who was with the Israelis prevented him from doing so,” he said, as reported by The Times of Israel. “I had to physically stand at the door and block him and the rest of the delegation from boarding, knowing that some were trying to force their way through and were looking for trouble.”

Episodes of Arab and Muslim athletes refusing to compete against Israelis are relatively common in international sports.

In June, Syrian boxer Ala Ghasoun refused to participate in an Olympic qualifying match against an Israeli, saying that to do so “would mean that I, as an athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the state of Israel.”

Israel’s national soccer team is forced to compete in the World Cup and continental tournaments in Europe rather than Asia, as geography would dictate, because so many Middle Eastern countries refuse to play them.