Friday, August 12, 2016

  • Friday, August 12, 2016
  • Elder of Ziyon
The Reuters article we've been discussing about Mary al-Atrash, the Palestinian Olympics swimmer, had a subtext.

The impression that the reader was supposed to get upon reading the story was that she, and by extension the entire Palestinian Olympics team, had unusual hurdles on the way to Rio. From this and other mainstream media stories we get the impression that Israel is applying arbitrary rules just to make their lives difficult, that they cannot get proper equipment to train, and in general they live in an area where even getting to the Olympics is a story of perseverance way beyond ordinary Olympics athletes.

Christian Zimmermann, "Palestinian"
But there is another sport that will see a Palestinian entry.

Equestrian dressage.

Even with the richest of all sports, for Palestinians there is still a political angle as this Middle East Eye report says:
A German entrepreneur in his 50s is hoping to go for gold at the Rio Olympics on Thursday as the first person to represent Palestine in the equestrian competition.

Christian Zimmermann, a descendant of German composer Robert Schumann who holds dual German and Palestinian citizenship, finished 12th out of 60 after the first day of a two-day event that began on Wednesday.

Zimmermann, now 54, abandoned competitive dressage aged 26 to enter the business world, ending up as the CEO of an international communications company.

However, he re-entered the sport on an international level a decade ago, and was persuaded to represent Palestine by a Russian-Palestinian diplomatic family who are also involved in dressage, the al-Shaers.

“The decision was certainly not a whim,” said Zimmermann, who began representing Palestine in 2012 and took part in the 2014 World Equestrian Games under the Palestinian flag.

Zimmermann has said he will be careful not to do anything “inappropriate” when he meets members of the Israeli delegation.

The Lebanese delegation was in hot water earlier last week after athletes reportedly refused to allow Israeli counterparts to travel in the same bus to the opening ceremony.

“It’s true that my second nationality gives me more choice over where and when to compete internationally,” Zimmermann told German news site Berliner Zeitung this week.

However, he said, he chose to compete under the Palestinian flag to make a political point about Germany’s relationship with Israel.

“We as Germans carry a special responsibility for the Jewish people and for Israel,” he told the paper.

“But this responsibility also means that we must push for peace in the Middle East conflict, as difficult as that may be.

“On top of that you can be critical of the development of Israeli policy in recent years. So finally I decided to ride for Palestine, as a gesture towards the Palestinian people.

“If, by competing in the Olympics, I can contribute in some small way to giving the region and its inhabitants a bigger voice, I have been successful."

This is all garbage.

Haaretz notes that it is unclear how or if he became a Palestinian citizen, and his decision to represent "Palestine" was more opportunism than any desire for peace:

It took until 2013 for him to change his national allegiance because of the rules of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (known by its French acronym, FEI). His choice of Palestine derived in part from his search for a way to qualify for the Olympics. As a German rider he was not particularly successful in making the cut, but as a Palestinian he has virtually no competition, which has enabled him to reach the Games, as the German tabloid Bild has suggested.
In addition to Zimmermann, only five other Palestinian equestrians are registered, along with two horses, as members of FEI, according to that organization. The PA holds no international equestrian competitions either, so the question still stands: Why Palestine, and not, for example, some small, undeveloped African nation?
Zimmermann explains that at a competition in which he participated at the end of the last decade, he met a family of Russian diplomats of Palestinian origin. That marked the beginning of a special friendship, which later led to his decision to represent Palestine. It was not a spontaneous decision, he adds; he took his time before deciding to ride for Palestine.
While he mentions the political aspect of this move, he also hints that there is also a practical dimension to it. Specifically, he notes, such decisions will naturally influence a person on a personal, sporting and political level. But pragmatically, he also realized he would have a great deal more freedom competing on behalf of Palestine than if he tried to fit into the German organizational structure.

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