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Aug 18, 2016
by Ariyana Love
Despite Israeli occupation’s usual attempts to prevent Palestinians from competing at this years Olympic games, there is also the usual support for Palestine, by world athletes.
Palestinian athletes enter Olympic stadium during opening ceremony in Rio, 2016
On the day of the opening ceremony, we saw the typical censorship of Palestine by mainstream media, with virtually no news coverage of the 6 Palestinian athletes competing. BBC went so far as to censor out the Palestinian athletes as they entered the stadium.
Episodes of world athletes refusing to compete against Israelis are common in international sports. Competing teams and athletes have been demonstrating solidarity with Palestine and protesting the Israeli occupation in a variety of ways this year.
On the way to the opening ceremony, the Lebanese team refused to allow the Israeli athletes to share their bus. The head of the Lebanese delegation blocked the aisle and entrance to the 47-member Israeli delegation. To avoid an international and physical incident, the Israeli athletes were taken to the opening ceremony in a “special bus.”
As a deflective measure, Israeli’s are calling this anti-semitic behaviour. But it’s indicative of a much deeper issue; the ongoing ethnic cleansing of an occupied people.
The Israeli team got a relatively small taste of their own medicine, compared to how Israeli’s are treating the Palestinian people.
A Saudi Arabian judo athlete refused to participate in her first-round match in Rio last Sunday, to avoid an Israeli competitor in the next round. She was not the only athlete who withdrew from the Olympics this year to avoid playing with an Israeli opponent.
In June, Syrian boxer Ala Ghasoun refused to participate in an Olympic qualifying match against an Israeli, saying that to do so:
“would mean that I, as an athlete, and Syria, as a state, recognize the state of Israel. I quit the competition because my rival was Israeli, and I cannot shake his hand or compete against him while he represents a Zionist regime that kills the Syrian people,”
Mr. Ghasoun said in Arab media, according to Jerusalem’s i24 News.
Israel’s national soccer team and its clubs have to compete in the World Cup and the continental tournaments in Europe rather than Asia, because so many countries, especially Middle Eastern countries, refuse to play them.
Before the Rio Games, Israel denied the head of the Palestinian Olympic team Issam Qishta, a permit to leave Gaza and therefore he was not able to join the rest of his team in Brazil.
According to the Palestinian Olympic committee, Israel also delayed the deliveries of uniforms and equipment and the Palestinian committee was forced to buy new equipment in Brazil.
Last May, the Palestinian national football team was held at the Allenby Crossing on the Jordanian border for “security reasons” just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed to ease travel restrictions on players, reported Ma’an.
In addition to Israeli sabotage and travel restrictions, Palestinian athletes must face a lack of proper training facilities and resources.
Palestinian swimmer Mary al-Atrash has been unable to train at a 50-meter Olympic-sized pool because of Israeli travel restrictions to Jerusalem, which is just 3 km from her home town.
Israeli forces bombed Gaza’s Palestine Stadium in 2006, and then again during “Operation Pillar of Cloud” in 2012.
Palestine Stadium in Gaza, after Israel bombed it in 2012.
The boycotting athlete is generally punished by his or her withdrawal since the athlete then loses the opportunity to advance and win a medal. After years of training, such a tremendous sacrifice for ones principles is truly commendable.
Israel is not a “state” as the Zionist regime is masquerading itself to be. Israel is still an illegal military occupation that is continuing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, through land grabbing and settlement expansion, extermination of people and banned weapons testing in Gaza.
To recognize an Israeli athlete as representing a “country” that is not even a legitimate state, is unethical. So, hats off to these athletes for standing by their principles. They have sacrificed their dreams to do the right thing and set a powerful example to the rest of the world.
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