Jan 23, 2022

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Two more Israelis won medals at the prestigious Grand Slam Judo competition in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and there was still no Israeli flag at the award ceremonies and no Israeli anthem played.

On Saturday, Or Sasson won third place, earning him the bronze medal, in the men’s over 220 pounds category. On the same day, Peter Paltchik won the bronze in the men’s under 220 pounds category.

As was seen earlier in the competition, no Israeli flag was displayed at the awards ceremony nor were members of the Israeli team permitted to wear Israeli flag patches on their uniforms, as is the rule for teams from all of the other nations. The Israeli athletes were introduced as representing “the International Judo Federation (IJF)”, and the IJF flag rose up in front of the crowd as the IJF theme song played.

This disgraceful treatment was also given two Israeli judokas on Thursday when Gili Cohen was awarded the bronze medal and Tal Flicker was presented the gold medal. The International Judo Federation warned the UAE Judo Federation that the Israeli Athletes were to be treated equally, as dictated by the rules of the International Olympic Committee. Despite this warning, the UAE insisted the Israeli athletes adhere to these restrictions for security reasons.

The Israeli athletes accepted the discriminatory treatment with dignity. As he stood on the highest podium with the gold medal displayed on his chest, Tal Flicker was seen singing the Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem, while the theme song of the International Judo Federation blared from the loudspeakers.

Security concerns did not seem to be the issue, however, when UAE’s Rashad Almashjari refused to shake the hand of Tohar Butbul after the Israel judoka defeated him in the first round. Butbul went on to win the bronze in his category.

Even more egregious was when Israeli judoka Shir Rishoni won her match against her Moroccan opponent, Aziza Chakir. Though Chakir had lost the Judo match, she displayed remarkable speed when running away to avoid shaking Rishoni’s hand. One commentator suggested that perhaps Chakir should consider competing in track and field.


Anti-Israel discrimination frequently occurs in international competitions, despite Israeli judokas were also banned from displaying any Israeli symbols at a 2015 tournament in Abu Dhabi. At the 2016 Summer Olympics, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shahaby refused to shake hands with Israeli Or Sasson after being defeated by the Sasson. The referee called Shahabay back to perform the end-of-match bow required by competition rules.

A verse in the Book of Lamentations was acted out on Friday when an Israeli judoka attempted to shake the hand of his Egyptian opponent after a match, but was refused. (Imgur)

In the same Olympics, a Saudi woman Judo competitor pulled out of the first round of competition to avoid fighting an Israeli in the next round.

In February 2009, Shahar Pe’er, ranked 45th in the world at the time, was prevented from playing at the Dubai Tennis Championships by the UAE, which denied her a visa.

In the same year, authorities in Malmo wanted to cancel a Davis Cup match between Israel and Sweden because they didn’t want the Israeli team competing in the city. An unwillingness to accept a Swedish forfeit (which would have eliminated Sweden from the competition) led to barring spectators from the match instead.

Since 2001, Israeli athletes have faced no less than 45 boycotts in major international competitions. Most, but not all, of the boycotts came from Arab nations refusing to compete against Israelis.

Of course, the most horrifying treatment of Israeli athletes at an international competition took place in Munich in 1972, when 11 members of the Israeli team were murdered by Palestinian terrorists aided by German Neo-Nazis. This horror went unrecognized until 2016, when two days prior to the start of the Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee officially honored the eleven Israelis killed for the first time.