Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Lebanese and other Arab media this week are celebrating the decision by a junior chess player to refuse to compete against an Israeli in a tournament in Abu Dhabi.

The Lebanese chess champion, Nadia Fawaz, withdrew from the 4th round of the 28th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festival to avoid facing the Israeli player, Elia Grozman.

Her refusal to play against Grozman came as a statement of refusal to recognize the Israeli state, a stance always taken by Lebanese players and athletes in international competitions.
Some articles list other recent examples of Arab refusal to compete against Israelis in recent international tournaments:
Charbel Abou Daher recently withdrew from the 2022 Youth MMA World Championships in Abu Dhabi, even though some believed he could have won, to avoid playing an Israeli opponent. The Lebanese MMA Federation shared on Instagram an explanation that his decision was made for “patriotic reasons.

Aquilina Al Chayeb is a judo athlete who, during the Athens Junior European Cup 2022, allegedly lost on purpose to avoid facing an Israeli in the next round. The Lebanese Judo Federation allegedly asked their player to lose her current tie to avoid competing with an Israeli in the next round, as to do so would have been considered recognition of Israel. Al Chayeb did not have the option to simply withdraw lest the International Judo Federation (IJF) penalize her and thwart her career, so she went on to deliberately lose.
Earlier this month, Iraqi tennis stars Nasr Mahdi and Mohammad al-Mahdi withdrew from the 2022 Bucharest Wheelchair Open in Romania to avoid playing against their Israeli rivals.

Majid al-Ugaili, president of the Iraqi Tennis Federation, announced in a statement on Aug. 11 that the draw put them on a mathematical path to pairing them with a pair of Israelis. The Iraqi seed team then decided to withdraw from the competition.

As early as July 31, the Palestinian Information Center reported that Jordanian taekwondo player Maysir al-Dahamsheh avoided a confrontation with his Israeli opponent at the 2022 World Taekwondo Cadet and Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

A Jordanian national table tennis player did the same last summer at the World Para Table Tennis Championships in Slovenia by withdrawing from the competition to avoid playing against an Israeli opponent.

[In July], Algerian footballer Ahmed Touba refused to accompany his team, İstanbul Basaksehir to a match against Israel's Maccabi Netanya in the second leg of the preliminary round of the Europa Conference League matches. Touba also refused to participate in the first leg of the match in Istanbul on July 21.

A Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool pulled out of his match against Tohar Butbul in the 73-kilogram men's division in the Tokyo Olympics last year.
Isn't it time that sports federations get their acts together and ban any country from competition that acts like this? As it is, the athletes are celebrated in their home countries for their "bravery" and they gain more than they lose. It is up to sports federations to ensure that the pain for boycotting matches against Israel (or any country) is greater than the accolades.

And Israel can do its own part. Since much of the Arab psyche is driven by "honor," Israel should put out the message that the Arabs who withdraw from competition are really frightened of losing to an Israeli. Over time, this can turn the refusal from looking honorable to looking cowardly - and athletes would not want to be viewed that way.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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