El Shehaby vs Sasson – It’s Judo, Not The Six Day War!

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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 :

Don't speak for Palestinians because they're Muslims

The debates about the Israel-Palestine conflict re-emerge with latest Olympic incident, in which an Egyptian athlete refused to shake hand with his opponent from Israel.

So, there are all kind of debates going on in Facebook about the incident and the Israel-Palestine conflict. There are people throwing their support for the Zionist state. They’re claiming that, whatever Israel is doing is to protect itself from the hostilities from the Arabs. The incident is being cited as an example of level of hostility the Palestinians (or Muslims) share against the Jews.

There are arguments supporting Israel’s aggression towards Palestine, citing this incident. What I can see in such arguments is that mostly Muslims are speaking against Israel (and defending the Egyptian athlete’s conduct), while some non-Muslims are condemning the Egyptian athlete (and justifying Israel’s treatment of Palestinians). In my opinion, both are wrong. what the Egyptian did is wrong. After all, the Olympic is all about unity, beyond differences.

The Olympic is not a place for the Egyptian or anyone to show the hostility. His conduct is certainly an unacceptable one, judging from sporting sense. In the same tone, how could one justify the Zionist state’s atrocities against Palestinians citing this incident? The Israel-Palestine conflict is not a religious conflict to start with. It was made a ‘religious conflict’. The conflict was all about land.

So, if you are Muslims and supporting the Palestinians because they’re also Muslims, you are no different from those who are supporting the Zionists. But that is the reality, those who speak in support of Palestine, will not speak in support of the Tamils’ struggle for self-determination in Sri Lanka or the Kurds’ struggle for self-rule in Turkey. The Israel-Palestine conflict became a religious conflict because of such narrow-minded thinking.

I support Palestine, not because they’re Muslims; but because they’re humans. Palestinians were made to become refugees in their own land. I’m looking at the Palestinians struggle as a struggle for the liberty of their own land. Nothing more than that. The Palestinians land and liberty was sacrificed by the US and UK-backed United Nations. It was an International mistake, the repercussions of which are still ongoing in the present day.

The background of the Israel-Palestine conflict (as I understood it)

The Jews (of Palestine) became dispersed and started to leave their ‘land’, even before the time of Christ. From the 8th Century BC till the 2nd Century AD, they were either driven out or voluntarily left Palestine.

The ‘Diaspora’ begin with the fall of the northern Jewish Kingdom in the 8th century BC and later there was the destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In the first century AD, there were more Jews living outside Palestine than within. That was the situation throughout history. Yet, the Diaspora kept supporting the small number of Jews in their ‘Holy Land’ for centuries, because they believed that they would regain the land one day, because they’re the ‘chosen race’ of the Almighty God. That’s the history of Jews in Palestine 2,000 years ago.

Going back to the State of Israel, in 1947, Britain invited the newly-established United Nations to investigate the Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine and to come up with a solution. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) produced majority and minority reports.

The majority report proposed the two-state solution, with Jerusalem placed under international trusteeship, because both the Jews and Muslims will not give up authority over the holy land. The minority report’s proposal was for a Federated State of Palestine with Jews and Arab living under one Federated State with two regions.

The Jews were ready to accept the Majority report as that will give them recognition from the UN. However, the Arabs were not agreeable to either majority or minority report. The reason that the Arabs were not ready to accept the UNSCOP Majority Report was because of the proposed partition of Palestine.

According to the UNSCOP solution, the Jews who owned merely 7 percent of Palestine’s land prior to 1947, will get 56.5 percent of Palestine’s land while the Arabs would get just 43.5 percent. The Arabs were not agreeable because for the Jews, they were just giving up their demands (on things what they need, not owned). But the Arabs must give up what they owned.

Arabs were not agreeable to the solution at all. It was forced on them by United Nations’ vote, where 23 members at the time backed the formation of Israel while 10 members were opposed.

Since the formation of Israel, the Jewish state expanded the border by military actions, illegal settlements and so on. The confrontation was not the reason for Israel’s extension of its border; the Zionist state just want to drive out the Arabs out of their own land, and control the ‘chosen land’.

Israel had violated 66 UN Resolutions (of which 28 were Security Council resolutions) in regard to Palestine since its formation. Israel is behaving like an international rogue, without a single sanction about it. Almost every day, the people of Palestine are facing the Israel Defence Force’s atrocities, yet no one blames the Zionist state. The blame is always on Palestinians (or to say precisely, on Hamas) for standing up against the rogue occupiers of their own land.

The Palestinians were not the source of problem, the problem was inflicted onto them by the international community, especially the UK and US. That’s the historical background of Israel-Palestine conflict (that I understood).

Hence, I will support the struggle of Palestinians for an independent, sovereign state. For me, the struggles for self determination in any part of the world are the same. I don’t see it with my religious glasses on; and I expect my Muslim friends to do the same.

Don’t just show your ‘human’ side when it involves Palestinians. Show the same concern for all the struggles for independence and self-determination around the world, be it in Palestine, Sri Lanka or Kurdistan.

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.

From left: Israel’s Or Sasson (bronze), Brazil’s Rafael Silva (bronze), France’s Teddy Riner (gold), Japan’s Hisayoshi Harasawa (silver) celebrate with their medals following the podium ceremony of the men’s over-100kg judo contest of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 12, 2016. (AFP/Jack Guez)
Olympics bringing nations together – From left: Israel’s Or Sasson (bronze), Brazil’s Rafael Silva (bronze), France’s Teddy Riner (gold), Japan’s Hisayoshi Harasawa (silver) with their medals for the men’s over-100kg judo contest of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 12, 2016. (AFP/Jack Guez)

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

Map of UN Partition Plan for Palestine, adopted 29 Nov 1947 | Credit : Wikimedia CommonsThe problem with comparing percentages is how deceiving it can be. Would you like 99% of arsenic, or 1% of gold? Is having more always better? Not necessarily so.

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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