The organizing committee of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, a major judo tournament in the United Arab Emirates, ruled that the Israeli team cannot compete with symbols of the state. As was the case two years ago at the same competition, Israeli participants will not be able to wear the Israeli flag on their uniform and the national anthem will not be played if they win.
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“We assume that this time, too, the Israeli team will not be able to appear under the national flags,” said the Israel Judo Association. “This assumption comes after a conversation between association chairman Moshe Ponte and the chairman of the International Judo Federation, Marius Vizer.”
The tournament will take place in UAE's capital city from October 26 through 28.
The Israel Judo Association added: “We won’t be dragged into the political arena and won’t award prizes to those who want to deter us from appearing all over the world. Our goal is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the competitions on the way are a means of achieving the goal. There are some who are trying to prevent us from achieving this goal, who would be happy if Israelis don’t appear at the Olympics, but we won’t let them disturb us.”
The United Arab Emirates and Israel have no diplomatic relations. Athletes from the Arab world routinely forfeit matches to avoid facing an Israeli competitor. At the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Egyptian judoka Islam el-Shahabi was sent home after refusing to shake hands with Or Sasson, the Israeli who went on to win a bronze medal. The Lebanese delegation also barred Israelis from boarding a bus the two teams were meant to take to the opening ceremony. It was later reprimanded by the International Olympic Committee.