Christian Israeli wins kickboxing championship, Muslim opponent refuses to shake hands

‘I expect every Israeli citizen to wave the Israeli flag,’ says Louay Sakas, who won the international tournament in Istanbul.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

An Arab-Israeli man won the 7th International Kickboxing World Cup in Turkey on Wednesday morning, holding up the Israeli flag during his victory celebration while HaTikvah, Israel’s national anthem, played.

Louay Sakas, a Christian from the northern town of Kafr Yasif, said he was proud to compete on behalf of the Jewish State.

“I am first and foremost an Israeli citizen,” Sakas told Channel 12. “I am not interested in [who’s] a Jew, Muslim, Christian or Druze – I represent the country and want everyone here to live in peace with each other.”

But not everyone at the tournament shared Sakas’ views around the importance of coexistence.

In a video obtained by Channel 12 immediately after a semi-final match, Sakas’ opponent is seen swiftly running out of the ring, rather than shaking his hand.

The loser of the match, a Moroccan national, did not engage in the standard act of sportsmanship and basic respect due to Sakas’ Israeli nationality.

“The Moroccan delegation, along with several members of other countries’ delegations, also heckled us during the match and created a small protest, but of course I did not address it,” Sakas said. Notably, Morocco normalized ties with Israel in 2021 as part of the Abraham Accords peace agreements.

Sakas said there is no reason why his Arab ethnicity should prevent him from being patriotic.

“I expect every Israeli citizen to wave the Israeli flag,” he said. “ I am not trying to be defiant or anything like that, I wave the flag because I am an Israeli citizen.”

The head of the Kickboxing Association in Israel is Naama Ali, 28, a Muslim woman from the Galilee city Arraba.

“I am excited to be a young Arab woman in a role that is usually staffed by a man,” she told Israel Hayom after being appointed to the post in 2021.

“I’m proud to represent the Arab society in Israel and promote kickboxing to a wider audience, and especially to be an inspiration to women and girls in sports.”