The Rio 2016 games are now history, and so are the amazing athletic feats the world witnessed. Unfortunately, the Olympics also had a nastier side, which was broadcast on live TV for everyone to see.
The stated goal of the Olympics Games is “to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
This is a noble goal, but regrettably, one country consistently found itself discriminated against by its athletic counterparts (I would not say peers, since they decidedly proved themselves beneath such a term): Israel. 2016 was a banner year for the Israeli Olympic team, which brought 47 athletes who competed in 17 different sports. Everyone is familiar with the now-infamous image of the Egyptian judoka who refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after losing, but that was far from the only incident. Unfortunately, this is par for the course at Olympic games. Jewish athletes were prevented from competing in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin (one of them tells her fascinating story here), and 11 Israeli athletes were murdered during the 1972 Munich Olympics by Palestinian terrorists (which current Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has been accused of unknowingly bankrolling). In 2012, a move to commemorate this massacre with a moment of silence was ignored, despite garnering over 100,000 signatures, including President Barack Obama’s (although Aly Raisman commemorated them after a spectacular performance). Fortunately, in Rio there was a memorial that commemorated these slain athletes.
Here is a list of as many of the anti-Israel acts I have found that pertain to the Rio Olympics. An added irony to all of this is that Israel helped ensure that the Olympics went off without any terrorist actions, since Brazil hired an Israeli security firm to help them keep everyone safe. If I missed one, let me know and I will add it to the list:
- The animosity shown toward Israeli athletes started well before the Opening Ceremony. Last year, the Asian Shooting Championship that was held in Kuwait refused to even issue a visa for an Israeli delegate to enter the country. To the credit of the International Olympic Committee, the tournament was then stripped of its status as a qualifying tournament for the Olympics.
- One of Syria’s best boxers refused to compete against his Israeli opponent in a qualifying tournament in Azerbaijan, guaranteeing a forfeit. In an interview after his decision, the boxer pinned the blame not only on his own beliefs, but on those of his government as well. “I quit the competition because my rival was Israeli, and I cannot shake his hand or compete against him while he represents a Zionist regime that kills the Syrian people. If I fight against him, it would mean that I, as a[n] athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the state of Israel. The decision to quit was not mine. It was made by the Syrian Sports Federation and by senior Syrian officials. It was a very difficult decision, because I have worked hard to participate in the championship. But I serve my homeland – my honor and my loyalty belong to Syria.” This is, of course, laughable in every way. While Syria’s Bashar al-Assad gasses his own civilians, Israel is busy “quietly aid[ing] Syrian civilians.” It’s no wonder that those “senior Syrian officials” wish to distract from the barbarisms they are inflicting on their own people, with Israel as a convenient scapegoat.
- Israel’s flag failed to appear on a list of flags that Facebook users were allowed to select from to support a country of their choosing. After a protest by the Israeli Olympic Committee, the flag was added as a feature. The Jerusalem Post points out that “this isn’t the first time Israel was snubbed online during the Olympic games. In the 2012 BBC listed Israel with no capital, while listing east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. After the Prime Minister[’]s Office launched a campaign demanding a correction, BBC updated their site listing Israel as the capital.”
- The chair of the Palestinian Olympic team has a long history of celebrating terrorism:
Jibril Rajoub leads the Palestinian Olympic Committee. He is a terrorist. He spreads hatred, and can’t even celebrate the peace and purity of kids playing soccer. Rajoub went apoplectic in 2014 when preteen Palestinians and Israelis played in a “peace match.” “It was a disgrace to use sports for this purpose,” he said. But it’s not a disgrace to use sport to promote terror. This man has honored murderers like Muhannad Halabi, who stabbed two Israelis to death and wounded two others in Jerusalem by naming a ping-pong tournament in his name. He also attended a boxing match honoring Ali Hassan Salameh, one of the Munich Fatah (Black September is Fatah) terrorists.
- Mary al-Atrash, a Palestinian swimmer, made international news with her complaints that she has no access to an Olympic-sized swimming pool. These complaints are laughably false, however, as pointed at in an article by Tablet: “The Israeli government office for coordinating activities in the West Bank, or COGAT, issued a statement last month on its Facebook page, making it clear that it would’ve gladly considered accommodating al-Atrash had she bothered applying for a permit to train in Jerusalem—which, like Palestinian athletes before her, she refused to do—and wishing her the best of luck anyway. It might’ve also been helpful to note that plenty of athletes around the world, including here in the United States, train, like al-Atrash, in semi-Olympic 25-meter pools, and that to qualify for the Olympics, al-Atrash had to have qualified in a regulation-size pool, which makes the whole access question a rather minor one. But never mind all that, because the Palestinian Territories, you see, have not one Olympic pool but several.” This is unfortunately far from the first time that Palestinian athletes have attempted to slander Israel using pool-related tales.
- Israeli athletes were shut out of the bus that they were assigned to share with the Lebanese delegation on their way to the Opening Ceremony. Both countries were assigned to share the same bus, and the Lebanese acted like petulant children, with “the head of the Lebanese team physically blocked the entrance to the bus.” This delegate then complained that the Israelis “insisted on getting on” the bus that was assigned to them. He also said that the Israeli athletes were “looking for trouble” by, again, boarding the bus that they were told to ride on. The nerve! To make matters worse, the International Olympic Committee asked Israelis to “not make a big deal” of this incident. The Israelis were ultimately given a different bus to ride on, in what was a complete capitulation to the Lebanese.
- A Saudi Arabian judoka forfeited her first round contest against an opponent from Mauritius. This has nothing to do with Israel, right? Actually, this athlete would have had to compete against an Israeli judoka in the next round. This is a pretty sad end to the Olympic journey of one of the first women Saudi Arabia has ever let perform in the Olympics (Saudi Arabia only started allowing women to compete in the games in 2012, and that was only after the IOC threatened to to ban their entire team from competing. On top of this, Saudi Arabia closed its women-only gyms a few years ago). Saudi Arabia insisted that this withdrawal was because the athlete was injured, but other outlets reported that she was in fact perfectly fine, and simply quit to avoid competing against an Israeli athlete. This incident is all too reminiscent of how an Iranian judoka came down with a gut illness right before wrestling an Israeli athlete in 2012. That was the year that Iran was supposed to end its 33-year ban on competing with Israelis, but it was not to be.
- The most notorious incident was when an Egyptian judoka who was absolutely crushed by Israeli Or Sasson refused to shake his better’s hand or bow to him, both of which completely violate both judo and Olympic rules and values. The Egyptian defended his actions by saying that “[you] can’t ask me to shake the hand of someone from this State.” He was known to be the most anti-Israel member of the Egyptian Olympic team. A few days after this incident, the Egyptian quit judo altogether, making him both a loser and a quitter. NBC spent all of 23 seconds on air covering this incident. Bret Stephens has a terrific analysis of this incident and its greater ramifications here.
- Jordan won its first ever Olympic gold medal in Taekwondo, afterAhmad Abughaush scored upset after upset. Abughaush still has family in the same Israeli village his grandparents moved to Jordan from, and his victory was celebrated by both countries. Refusing to simply share in the revelry, the managing editor of AJPlus cast doubt on whether Israel even has a history.
It isn’t too surprising to see this. AJPlus, which makes all those cool, trendy videos in your newsfeed, is simply the way that Qatari-funded Al Jazeera is trying to reach out to young people.
Qatar also funds beIN SPORTS, which conveniently forgot to include Israel in its medal award recipients, despite the two bronze medals that Israel received.
These hate-filled Olympians should be inspired by the tale of Pakistani tennis star, Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi who faced down his own country’s tennis authorities over their hatred of his partnership with his friend, Israeli tennis player, Amir Hadad. When he was asked about a potential ban from his own tennis association, Qureshi responded by saying “That would be their own loss. If they [the Federation] want to stay in the lower levels, that’s fine. I’m going to stay and play for them, but if I believe I could do well with Amir in the big events, the Grand Slams, I’ll stay and play with him. Why not?” This sense of sportsmanship has been sorely lacking at the Rio games. Forfeits by these athletes only help Israel put more medals on the shelf, while they simultaneously put points on the board with their diplomatic efforts around the globe.
Keeping track of all of the anti-Israel hate at the Olympics is tough, so it was extremely helpful to have this guide from IJR’s Benny Johnson to be able to use as a reference to expand on in most of these instances.
For more on political video games, Greece’s Brexit over 2,000 year ago, America’s first Donald Trump, and more, check out the rest of my Profiles in History here!