Algerian judoka quits Olympics rather than compete with Israeli

Algerian judoka insists “Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this;” Israel’s Tohar Butbul to fight on Monday.

By World Israel News Staff

In the first snub of the Tokyo Olympics, an Algerian judoka withdrew from the games rather than face an Israeli opponent.

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine announced his withdrawal from the games after drawing a possible matchup against Israeli Tohar Butbul in the under 73 kg weight class. Nourine was scheduled to fight Sudan’s Mohamed Abdelrasool with the winner of that bout facing Butbul.

Abdelrasool will now advance to fight Butbul on Monday.

“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics… but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this,” Nourine told Algerian media.

The judoka’s coach, Amar Ben Yaklif, echoed Nourine’s position.

“We were not lucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision,” Ben Yaklif said.

This wasn’t the first time Nourine withdrew from a competition to avoid fighting the Israeli Butbul. Nourine dropped out of the 2019 World Judo Championships in Japan for the same reason.

Algeria’s not the first Arab country to snub Israel in a judoka tournament.

In 2016, Egyptian judoka Islam Shelhaby was sent home early from Rio de Janeiro for refusing to shake hands with Or Sasson after losing to the Israeli.

In April, the International Judo Federation put a four year ban on the Iranian Judo Federation after Tehran demanded its athletes refuse to compete with Israelis. The ban, which was backdated, expires in 2023.

Iranian judokas had been faking injuries or deliberately lost fights to avoid competing with Israelis, but their behavior was put in the spotlight when Saeid Mollaei fled the 2019 Judo Championship in Japan rather than obey directives from Iran to throw a fight to avoid facing Israeli Sagi Muki.

After receiving asylum in Germany, Mollaei became a Mongolian citizen, represented his new country at the 2021 Judo Grand Prix in Tel Aviv, and counts Muki as a close friend.