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Taekwondo

A Tunisian court bowed to pressure from an anti-Israel group by banning four Israeli athletes from competing in a taekwondo championship. 

By: AP and United with Israel Staff

A court in Tunis has banned four Israeli athletes from competing at the taekwondo world junior championships after a group of anti-Israel activists who opposed “normalization” with Jewish state filed a last-minute lawsuit.

The competition is being held in the Tunisian seaside resort of Hammamet from April 6-13.

A judicial official said the court rendered its decision earlier this week after the Tunisian group known as the National Commission for Supporting Arab Resistance and Opposing Normalization and Zionism sued the president of the Tunisian taekwondo federation, Ahmed Gaaloul.

Prosecutor’s spokesman Sofiane Selliti told The Associated Press that the court decision stipulates that Gaaboul can’t invite, or host, the four Israeli athletes — Dana Azran, Nicol Adamskt, Abijhag Semberg and Tom Pashcousky — whose names were on the list of contestants.

Gaaloul told the AP in a phone interview that the athletes will not be invited because they did not complete the paperwork to enter the tournament.

However, Israel Ynet reported that registration forms were sent ahead of time, enclosed with requests for visas to Tunisia for the Israeli delegation.

After a prolonged period of Tunisian officials ignoring the request, the Israelis were promised visas to compete, but with no Israeli insignias or symbols.

An Israeli taekwondo official told Ynet that the delegation “sent all of the forms on time, including registration. We did everything in an orderly fashion to be granted visas. They never responded, and then promised we’ll get the visas. Now they’re lying and saying we failed to submit on time.”

The plaintiffs argued in their lawsuit, which was published by local media, that the athletes’ presence would clash with constitutional provisions and agreements signed by the Tunisian government. They argue that Tunisia has committed “boycotting and not dealing with the Zionist entity … in any way.”

Gaaloul said the activist group “misled the judges and used subterfuge” to exploit public opinion.

Heads of the Israeli Olympic Committee have begun to address the matter and have contacted the International Olympic Committee and World Taekwondo officials as well.

“We have done everything by the book, waited on the visas for ages and never got them, despite agreeing to compete without Israeli symbols. This is very serious,” the Israeli taekwondo official said.

Muslim Anti-Israel Sentiments in Sports

For years, Israeli athletes have faced boycotts, snubs and logistical hurdles in sporting events involving Arab and Muslim countries.

In November, Morocco refused entry to Israel’s national judo team.

In October, Israel’s Judo team encountered Muslim hostility in Abu Dhabi when the country barred Israel’s team from donning national symbols and refused to play the Jewish state’s national anthem during the tournament.

The 12 Israeli athletes participating in the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam tournament were even prohibited from displaying the letters “ISR” on their uniforms to identify their nationality.

Similarly, in one of the competitions, Israel’s Tohar Butbul beat the UAE’s Rashad Almashjari, who then refused to shake hands after losing.

In February 2017, Iranian karate athlete Majid Hassaninia refused to compete against an Israeli opponent at the 21st Open de Paris – Karate Premier League in France. The Iranian’s unsportsmanlike conduct defied the accepted international code of honor in sports.

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