Egyptian Judo team member refuses to shake hands with Israeli counterpart at 2016 Olympics (YouTube Screenshot) (YouTube Screenshot)
Egyptian Judo team member refuses to shake hands with Israeli counterpart at 2016 Olympics

Arab bigotry against Israel at major competitions makes a mockery of the universal principles of equality and brotherhood for which international sporting events stand.

By: Daniel Krygier

Sports events are supposed to unite nations worldwide. During the latest Olympics, even bitter foes North Korea and South Korea put their differences temporarily aside by uniting under one flag. However, there is one systematic exception: Arab and Muslim sport boycotts against Israel.

The 7-year old schoolgirl Liel Levitan is a European children’s chess champion. Since she is Israeli, she was recently barred from participating in a chess tournament in Tunisia. Following Israeli protests and international pressure, Tunisia changed its mind and permitted Israeli participation in the tournament.

However, this is hardly the first time that an Arab country hosting a sports tournament discriminated against Israel. The reportedly improved ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel were invisible during an international chess tournament hosted by the conservative Arab kingdom.

The Israeli chess players could not participate because the Saudis refused to issue visas. At the beginning of 2018, an Israeli taekwondo team was prevented from participating in a junior championship held in Tunisia. Western liberals often refer to this North African country as a “moderate” Arab state.

In October 2017, an international judo competition was hosted bu the United Arab Emirates. The Arab hosts flagrantly violated international norms by barring the display of Israel’s flag with the Star of David and refused to play the Jewish state’s national anthem “Hatikvah.”

The president of the International Judo Federation Marius Vizer’s response was: “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.” This shameful conduct would hardly have been accepted if it targeted any other country than the Jewish state.

While Israel is geographically located in Asia, its national soccer team plays in FIFA’s European group. Most Muslim and Arab states refuse to play against Israeli soccer teams. Initiated by Kuwait, Israel was expelled from the Asian Football Confederation already in 1974.

In 2022, the FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar. This Arab state has close ties with the Hamas terrorist organization and does not have any diplomatic relations with Jerusalem. If Israel manages to qualify for the tournament, will the Israeli national team be allowed to participate?

Inspired by the Nazi boycott against Jews in the 1930s, the Arab world declared a boycott against the Jews in the British Palestine Mandate in 1945. This boycott expanded after the establishment of Israel in 1948.

The boycott has covered all commercial, political, cultural and sport relations with the Jewish state. It even used to punish non-Arab and non-Muslim states that had relations with Israel. It was supported by communist Russia. The commercial boycott against Israel has largely failed.

The reason is the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of Israel as a technological power. However, when it comes to sports, Israel is a tiny and expendable in a world that seeks to avoid tensions with the Muslim Arab world. This shameful behavior makes a mockery of universal principles of equality and must come to an end.