Iran banned from world judo for boycott on fighting Israelis

Iran was banned from international judo competitions Tuesday for refusing to let its athletes fight Israeli opponents.

By World Israel News and AP

The International Judo Federation imposed an indefinite ban on Iran’s team until it promises to end a long-running boycott of Israel.

The IJF’s disciplinary commission said the ban will stand “until the Iran Judo Federation gives strong guarantees and proves that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accepts that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes.”

The commission said Iran broke rules on non-discrimination and the manipulation of competition results.

The ruling comes after 2018 world champion Saeid Mollaei walked off the Iranian team in August, saying he had been ordered to lose matches and withdraw from competitions so as not to face Israelis.

The IJF accused Iranian government officials of putting pressure on athletes including Mollaei, who is now in hiding in Germany. Iran has already missed some events because it was provisionally suspended last month pending the full disciplinary ruling.

The IJF has previously said any measures taken against Iran won’t apply directly to next year’s Olympics, because athletes are technically entered by the Iranian Olympic Committee, not the national judo federation.

However, qualifying for the Olympics depends in large part on world ranking points from IJF events.

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Iran can appeal the IJF ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The measure comes at a time when the International Olympic Committee is pushing back against boycotts and other political demonstrations in sports.

In June, IOC President Thomas Bach criticized governments who “clearly abuse sport for their political purposes,” noting a case in May of a Tunisian court blocking four Israelis from competing at the taekwondo junior world championships.

Discrimination against Israeli athletes in the Arab world and Muslim-majority nations is rampant, affecting events ranging from soccer’s World Cup all the way down to youth chess tournaments.

During the era in which the State of Israel was created, around one million Jews were expelled from nations in the Arab world, with the majority of these refugees absorbed by the fledgling Jewish state. Official policies of discrimination remain in many Arab countries, which maintain boycotts against Israel and refuse entry to its citizens.

During Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure, a significant thaw in relations between Israel and Arab nations such as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia has occurred.

Iran, consistent with policy since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, remains committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.