Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby, blue, declines to shake hands with Israel’s Or Sasson, white, after losing during the men’s over 100-kg judo competition CREDIT: AP
A defeated Egyptian athlete refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent on Friday as Middle East politics spilled onto the judo mat at the Rio Olympics.
El Shehaby snubbed Or Sasson of Israel after being comfortably beaten in the judo bout – and was booed by the Rio crowd.
The athlete, who is an ultraconservative Salafi, had come under pressure from hardline Islamists on social media and from television pundits not to participate in the match.
“You will shame Islam. If you lose, you will shame an entire nation and yourself,” one comment read.
“We don’t want to think what will happen if you lost to an Israeli. Victory will give you nothing. How can you cooperate with a murderous nation?”
The Egyptian did, indeed, lose. With a minute and a half left in the bout, Sasson earned an automatic victory with two throws of El Shehaby.
He then refused the outstretched hand of the Israeli athlete, and walked away shaking his head, leading to boos ringing out around the arena.
The referee called El Shehaby back to the mat and obliged him to bow, as is customary in the Japanese martial art. The Eyyptian gave a quick nod of his head and walked off.
El Shehaby refused to comment, as did Sasson.
…Asked about El Shehaby’s actions, Israeli team press attaché Brurya Bigman said: “This is his problem. It’s not our problem.”
…Ofir Gendelman, Arabic language spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the incident “shocking”.
In a Twitter post, he said it “goes against the spirit of Rio 2016,” writing in Arabic said that “sports are not the field for politics and extremism.”
An Egyptian television pundit had also urged El Shehaby not to take part in the match beforehand.
“My son watch out, don’t be fooled, or fool yourself thinking you will play with the Israeli athlete to defeat him and make Egypt happy,” said Mataz Matar from the Islamist-leaning network Al-Sharq network.
“Egypt will cry; Egypt will be sad and you will be seen as a traitor and a normalizer in the eyes of your people.”
The International Judo Federation called it a sign a progress that the fight even took place between the two athletes.
“This is already a big improvement that Arabic countries accept to (fight) Israel,” spokesman Nicolas Messner said in an email. The competitors were under no obligation to shake hands, but a bow is mandatory, he added.
It sickens me how the media spin these kinds of incidents. Female Muslim athletes handicapped by being forced to wear Hijab are hailed as progress for feminism and male Muslim athletes who are bad losers and disrespectful towards a Jewish athlete are hailed as being an improvement! Why is everyone so scared to condemn oppressive and hateful behaviour? The amount of hate revealed by the extreme pressure that the Muslim judo athlete was put under by both social media and the Egyptian media is shocking. Despite this undeniable evidence of the hate and intolerance, media and leftists will continue to blame Israel for the lack of peace in the Middle East. It is very clear where the problem lies.
This was not a one off incident either. Israeli athletes at the 2016 Olympic Games have had to put up with ongoing disrespect.