If the Israelis genuinely want themselves to be treated as partners and not adversaries, they should begin by recognising the rights of Palestinians to their own lands
By Tariq A. Al Maeena
Earlier this month, during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, a storm in a teacup broke in the Israeli media, which charged that a female Saudi judo contestant had forfeited her qualifying round against a Mauritian in order to avoid facing an Israeli competitor in the next round.
The Times of Israel reported that Joud Fahmy, the Saudi, threw in the towel on her first-round judo match against Christianne Legentil from Mauritius during the Rio Olympic Games qualifying rounds “in an apparent effort to avoid a battle in the ring with an Israeli”. Fahmy was one of four Saudi women representing their country at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Israel’s Hebrew media disregarded Fahmy’s explanation that her withdrawal was due to an injury to her hand and instead insisted that the move “was an effort to avoid fighting an Israeli in the midst of political turmoil back home. Fahmy would have had to go up against Cohen had she won her first-round clash, which could have put her in an uncomfortable position due to the conflict between Israelis and Arabs”.
Earlier, during the opening ceremonies, the Lebanese delegation to the Olympics refused to ride on the same bus with Israeli athletes as they were making their way to the programme, necessitating the use of another bus to ferry the teams separately. The head of the Lebanese delegation, Saleem A-Haj Nacoula, said that the Israeli members of the delegation were “looking for trouble” with their insistence of getting on the same bus.
Israel should be made aware that the Arab world neither views it as its ‘friend’ nor likes it, irrespective of what signals Tel Aviv may think it is sending out…. Israelis have been burning, bulldozing and razing Palestinian homes and rendering their occupants homeless and helpless. They defy every United Nations-imposed sanction directed at them brazenly — as the world watches. They evict lawful owners and tenants off their property and turn them into illegal colonies for European and American Zionist imports. They have built walls on illegal property and parcelled off huge portions of what is Palestine, towards realising their own personal ‘Zionist Dream’. And they have been doing this unchallenged for decades
United States media sympathetic to the Zionist cause quickly picked on the Saudi move. The Washington Examiner headlined its story as ‘Saudi Olympic fighter refuses to compete against Israeli’, while Newsweek reported it as ‘Saudi judo competitor forfeits match to avoid Israeli in next round.’ Reporters criticised the athletes for politicising the Games.
A few days later, another media storm broke out over Egypt’s Islam Al Shehaby’s refusal to shake hands with his Israeli opponent Or Sasson, following the conclusion of the men’s 100kg judo competition. Al Shehaby backed away from Sasson, who had stuck out his hand. Associated Press reported that ‘the two-time Olympian also failed to bow when initially leaving the mat, but was called back by the referee, at which point, the 34-year-old Egyptian gave a small nod. Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, quickly chimed in, calling the incident “shocking”. Posting his ire on Twitter, he said it “goes against the spirit of Rio 2016”, and that “sports are not the field for politics and extremism”.
Funny he should talk about extremism!
This is not the first time in recent months that an athlete from an Arab country has refused to take part in a sporting event with an Israeli. In June this year, Ala Gasoun, a Syrian boxer, had refused to meet an Israeli at an Olympic boxing qualifier, saying: “I quit the competition because my rival was Israeli and I cannot shake hands with him or compete against him while he represents a Zionist regime that kills Palestinians and Arab people.”
Israel should be made aware that the Arab world neither views it as its ‘friend’ nor likes it, irrespective of what signals Tel Aviv may think it is sending out. Some of the Israeli athletes who were sent to the Rio Olympics were members of the Israeli army — a band of thugs in uniform who have been systematically targeting and killing innocent Palestinians, and more specifically women and children, in recent years, sanctioned and protected by the state of Israel. This is not something I’m merely alleging. There is documentary evidence furnished by independent witnesses to the effect.
Israelis have been burning, bulldozing and razing Palestinian homes and rendering their occupants homeless and helpless. They defy every United Nations-imposed sanction directed at them brazenly — as the world watches. They evict lawful owners and tenants off their property and turn them into illegal colonies for European and American Zionist imports. They have built walls on illegal property and parcelled off huge portions of what is Palestine, towards realising their own personal ‘Zionist Dream’. And they have been doing this unchallenged for decades.
Between the unprovoked partition of Palestine in 1947 until January 1, 1949, Zionist militants employing terrorist means destroyed or depopulated 531 Palestinian towns and villages, driving two-thirds of the indigenous population into exile. Many Palestinians fled for their lives in the wake of the terror unleashed by gangs of Zionist invaders, leaving behind all their earthly possessions. The unlucky ones never made it past their front doors as Zionist militants would strike in the middle of the night and slaughter all the occupants inside.
Today, hundreds of Palestinian children languish in Israeli prisons, some as young as seven years old. The Apartheid Wall continues to snake its way through Occupied Territory, annexing ever more land and prohibiting the Palestinians’ freedom of movement. The siege on Gaza will soon render that area uninhabitable and more than 50 discriminatory laws in Israel deprive Palestinian citizens in Israel of their rights. Israeli occupation policies are choking Palestinians. Such actions do not augur well for gaining acceptance or respect. And yet they expect the Arab world to be friendly.
If the Israelis genuinely want themselves to be treated as partners and not adversaries, they should begin by recognising the rights of Palestinians to their own lands and adopt the terms set forth in the Arab Peace Plan proposed back in 2002 by the late King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. Only then will the Arab world begin to hope that the Israelis truly want peace.
Until such time, Israel should not expect us to be their friends or that we are warming up to them in any form.
[Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena]
(Courtesy: Gulf News)