Muaythai boxing’s double-standard: Honoring Arabs who refuse to fight Israelis

Most competitors from Arab nations want to fight Israel. However, their countries forbid it.

By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler, World Israel News

Arab nations at this year’s International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) competition (July 20-28) continue to lack “fair play” when it comes to Israel, even when required to do so by the organization’s “ethical oath.”

The federation not only remains silent on the matter, but recently recognized “Palestine” as a country and asked a Palestinian to read the ethical declaration for all participants.

“An electronic lottery chooses which players will compete with each other,” Chaninat Hashem Gordon, mother of Israeli Muaythai competitors Kibedy, Ruach and Ahavat Gordon, explained to World Israel News.

“The Israeli athletes know that if they are scheduled to fight an Arab athlete, the person won’t show up and they will win by default. It’s very sad and frustrating,” she said.

Libya and Iraq forfeited their fights against Israel at this competition. Algeria, Iran and Palestinian fighters will always forfeit, should they be called to compete with Israel, Gordon says.

“They will never fight with Israel because that would recognize the existence of the country,” she said.

“The UAE [United Arab Emirates] does compete with Israel. However, after the fight, they won’t hug an Israeli on camera or shake hands with Israeli coaches, as is the custom after every fight. It’s very obvious that they are behaving differently with the Israeli team than with all others.” (Turkey is also willing to compete against Israelis.)

On July 24, Libyan Abdulhafid Assaid forfeited against Israel player Din Haziza in the 54 kg men’s Class B  competition. The next day, Iraqi Ali Kinanah twice forfeited, sending Haziza straight to the semi-finals without a fight.

Rule-breaking goes unpunished

“This poor sportsmanship goes against the rules, has been going on for a long time, and no one is stopping it,” Gordon told World Israel News. “Keeping silent on this behavior sets a precedent for other prestigious world competitions, like the Olympics.”

Although a forfeit, called Walk Over (WO), pushes Israelis up in the competition, the players are “disappointed” as these are only technical wins, explained Gordon.

“IFMA’s federation is like the United Nations for sports,” Gordon told World Israel News. “Arab countries are part of the federation and consistently do not follow the rules set down in the ethical code. How do they get away with this?”

At this year’s opening ceremony on July 21, the IFMA Master of Ceremonies recognized and honored “Palestine” by allowing a Palestinian flag to fly during the international flag march and giving the honor of reading the federation’s ethical oath to a Palestinian.

The emcee said, “[R]eading the [ethical] oaths, on behalf of the team officials of participating countries, please welcome Ahmad Abu Dukan from Palestine.”

Dukan read the prepared declaration for all those present.

“In the name of all coaches, I promise that we will strictly follow the IFMA code of ethics, good governance, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them in the true spread of sportsmanship and fair play. We lead by example to our athletes and uphold the fundamental principles of IFMA, being honor, tradition, respect, excellence, and fair play.”

“How did the Palestinians get a separate team from Israel, how could they fly their flag when they are not a country, and why were they granted so much honor when they have never won a medal and have no status at all in international competitions?” Gordon asked.

The Israeli team is made up of Jews, Arabs and Druze. Israeli Arab Muslim Aref Abd Al Hai helped train Ruach and Ahavat for a competition in Turkey last year.

“There is no discrimination at all from the Israeli team,” noted Gordon. “Yet, Arab countries will not compete even against another Arab if he is on Israel’s team.”

Gordon said that at the 2018 IFMA Youth World Championship 54-kg division, in Bangkok, Thailand an Iranian Arab player Iman Hamedani refused to play against the Israeli Druze player Amit Madah.

At the 2017 Youth Muaythai World Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, Palestinian competitor Sultan Abu Al-Haj refused to compete against Israeli Druze Amit Madah in the under-54-kg division.

In December 2016, IFMA was granted recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The first Muaythai Olympic competition will take place in Paris, France in 2024.

“Allowing Arab countries to get away with poor sportsmanship now as well as recognition of ‘Palestine’ will open a door that will be very hard to close at future international competitions, including the Olympics,” Gordon said. “We are still waiting for the federation as well as Israel to do something to stop this.”

Israel’s Ministry of Sports did not respond to World Israel News’ requests for comment.