In the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby snubbed his Israeli opponent’s offer of a handshake and topped that by refusing to give the mandatory bow. When he was compelled by the referee to return to the mat to give his bow, he only gave a quick nod to his opponent, Or Sasson.
His complete lack of sportsmanship ignited a storm of condemnation and support on the Internet. Even though this was supposed to be a match of two Olympic athletes, Islam El Shehaby turned it into a matter of geopolitics and even religion.
Bizarrely, those supporting El Shehaby often excused his lack of sportsmanship as a criticism of Israel’s actions against Palestinians… even though Egypt is ostensibly an Israeli ally and partner in enforcing the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Don’t Speak For Palestinians Because They’re Muslims
One person to give his two cents on the conflation of the El Shehaby snub of Or Sasson, with the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people is MPSP Councillor, Satees Muniandy. He wrote the following letter to MalaysiaKini :
While I agree with his sentiments, I have to disagree with him on several points of fact. Let’s proceed with the debunking!
It’s Judo, Not The Six Day War!
Condemning Islam “the Egyptian athlete” El Shehaby does NOT mean we are justifying Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.
It’s the Olympics… not the reenactment of the Six Day War, or the Yom Kippur War. On the judo mat, El Shehaby faced his opponent, Or Sasson, not the State of Israel.
As per regulations, El Shehaby MUST bow before his opponent. This is NOT negotiable. Since he walked away from the mat without bowing, he was wrong. Period. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.
El Shehaby can choose to abide by the rules and compete, or refuse to compete at all. There is no special privilege for anyone who is offended by the nationality / race / religion / sexuality of his opponent.
Always Acknowledge Good Behaviour
Acknowledging Or Sasson’s sportsmanship is NOT an acknowledgement of Israel’s right to oppress the Palestinians.
One can admire and praise his sportsmanship while continuing to criticise Israel… just like one can praise Israeli technological innovations, while continuing to criticise Israeli intransigence in peace talks.
We must praise good behaviour, even from our enemies. Not cast aspersions on the person’s nationality, ethnicity or religion, just because we disagree with their country’s policies.
Conspiracy Theories Be Gone!
Like Satees, I support the Palestinian cause because they are human beings, and deserve freedom and the right to self-rule. However, I have to distance myself from his conspiracy theories.
The UN Security Council has TEN temporary members; and FIVE permanent members who have vote powers. To lay blame solely at the feet of the US / UK is grossly inaccurate, when :
- the British BANNED Jews from purchasing land in Palestine in 1940
- they even CLOSED Palestine to Jewish immigration from 1939 onwards. Jews who tried to illegally migrate to Palestine were caught and sent to Mauritius and Cyprus.
The Zionists ended up WAGING WAR against the British, even bombing the British Military HQ, killing 91 people.
It is interesting to note that Satees himself later pointed out that many countries voted FOR the partition plan. However, he got the numbers wrong. 33 countries voted Yes, 13 voted No, and 10 abstained.
The Jews Were Forcibly Removed
Satees must decide if the Jews were forced off their land, or left of their own accord. If the Jews were “dispersed”, then they did not leave voluntarily. They cannot be said to have left voluntarily if they were forced to leave.
The fact of the matter is the Jews have been persecuted by both Muslims AND Christians through the ages. Otherwise, why on Earth would they leave their Promised Land? It’s certainly not because they believe that the journey is more important than the destination! 😀
The Problem With Statistics
Yes, under the proposed UN Partition Plan for Palestine, the Israelis would have received 56% of the land, while the Palestinians would receive 43% of the land. However, they are NOT dividing a pizza with equal toppings all around.
The Palestinians may be receiving just 43% of the land, but they were given the CHOICE parts – all of the major aquifers and all of the highlands.
The Israelis may be receiving 56% of the land, but the bulk of that was the NEGEV DESERT! The Israelis would have to depend on Palestine for their water!
More Statistical Problems
If the partition plan went according to plan, Israel would have 56% of land for 55% of the population (both Arabs and Jews).
The Palestinians would have 43% of the land for 44% of the population (both Arabs and Jews).
With the correct numbers, it now seems VERY reasonable, doesn’t it? Especially since most of Israel would have been the Negev desert.
Support Should Never Be Blind Or Absolute
I agree with Satees that the IDF have committed numerous atrocities in recent times, and the State of Israel should be rightly sanctioned for their actions. However, I think it would be wrong not to also blame the Arab nations and even the Palestinians for their part in this tragic situation.
The Palestinians ARE part of the problem, together with their Arab “brother nations” who screwed them over royally over the years. Just because we support their cause, it doesn’t mean we should also turn a blind eye to their mistakes and wrongful actions.
El Shehaby Is Wrong, Period
Whatever we may think of Israel or Palestine, or even Egypt, is IRRELEVANT. This is a simple matter of unsporting conduct by a veteran athlete who should know better.
There were only two people on that mat – El Shehaby and Sasson. Blue against White. There was no Palestine, no Islam, no Judaism, no geopolitics on that mat. None of that matters.
Respect the sport. Respect your opponent. That is all.
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