After discriminating against world-class Israeli athletes at an international tournament, hosts in the United Arab Emirates express remorse.
Disregarding previous warnings from the sanctioning body regarding the matter, officials of the judo federation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which recently hosted the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam tournament, opted to implement a number of discriminatory policies targeting the Israeli athletes participating in the event.
Among the steps taken by the UAE judo officials to mask Israel’s participation in the event were rules dictating that uniforms could bear no mark identifying athletes as Israeli, including a ban on Israeli flags or the initials “ISR” on tournament wear.
Shockingly, after Israeli athletes won medals in the tournament, UAE judo officials flouted international rules by refusing to both play “Hatikva,” Israeli’s national anthem, or to raise the Israeli flag. Instead, Israeli medal winners were forced to compete in insignia-less uniforms, and to accept their medals under a generic judo association flag without the ceremonial playing of their national anthem.
Shabby treatment at the hands of their Arab hosts, which included refusal to shake Israelis’ hands after matches, did not deter the Israeli delegation from cleaning up at the tournament. In fact the 12-member Israeli team walked away with five medals, including a gold medal garnered by Tal Flicker. The post-victory video of Flicker mouthing the words of “Hatikva” from the podium as the International Judo Association’s anthem blared over the loudspeaker was viewed tens of thousands of times on YouTube in the days following the disgraceful incident.
According to a statement from the International Judo Federation, Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al-Darei, president of the UAE’s Judo Federation, and Aref Al-Awani, a senior Emirates sports official, extended apologies to Israeli Judo Association head Moshe Ponte, in an apparent attempt to repair some of the damage done during the tournament. The officials also reportedly congratulated the Israeli team for their performance in the UAE.
While the International Judo Federation referred to these steps as a “gesture of courage,” the UAE officials’ actions at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam represent only the latest example of attempts by Arab countries and their athletes to use international sporting events as an arena in which to grind their anti-Israel axe.
By: World Israel News Staff