Israel’s judo bronze medalist says he shrugged off Egyptian’s snub, focused on winning. Or Sasson dedicates his medal to all Israelis. Says he was taught to always shake hands after a fight, but opponent ‘didn’t want to go with it.’
There were also other controversies involving Arab and Israeli athletes in Rio, as was the case in previous Olympics. But, whether it’s Lebanese athletes refusing to share a bus with Israeli counterparts, or Arab athletes choosing to withdraw from competition whenever they were slotted to play against Israelis, it’s always the Arabs who are often the instigators.
By inserting politics into the midst of the games, Arab officials and athletes might think that they are taking a principled stand, and drawing attention to their cause, however they define it at this stage, but most people around the world don’t see principle, they see hate. They see people, Arabs, so blinded by hate that they ignore the spirit of the Olympic Games by refusing any contact with Israeli athletes, even if that meant throwing games and forgoing a chance at achieving Olympic glory.
Arabs will do better to revisit and revise this armful attitude of theirs. Boycotting Israel has never harmed Israel, and has always been harmful to Arabs. In all fields of human activity, be it political, economic, social, cultural, scientific or sportive, Arabs have been harmed more by their attitudes than by anything Israel or anyone else has done. And yes, that does include the Palestinians. It’s time the conflict was concluded, and for Arabs to focus on developing their countries and empowering their citizens. Now more than ever fighting for Palestinian rights requires intensive engagement with Israel on all levels not boycott.
In the future, once the dust settles, Arab historians looking back at our times are bound to realize that the Arab-Israeli conflict was largely the product of inter-Arab politics and an Arab identity crisis than some machination by an external party.