The International Judo Federation has called on the United Arab Emirates to treat Israeli athletes equally during this week’s Grand Slam tournament.
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Wednesday’s letter comes after news that the team will be prevented from wearing the Israeli flag or any other national emblems on their uniform, including the designation ISR for Israel. If they win a place on the podium they will not hear their national anthem, “Hatikvah.” Instead, they will be identified as competing as part of the International Judo Federation.
The letter from the International Judo Federation, or IJF, to the president of the UAE Judo Federation was obtained by The Associated Press. It says “all delegations, including the Israeli delegation, shall be treated absolutely equally in all aspects, without any exception.”
The letter also says that the IJF statutes “clearly provide that the IJF shall not discriminate on the ground of race, religion, gender or political opinion.”
The organizers claim security issues prevent the Israeli team from being identified as such. Eight Israelis competed under similar conditions during the same event held two years ago in Abu Dhabi.
The World Jewish Congress sent a letter to the IJF president, Marius Vizer, last week requesting that he intervene. Its CEO and executive vice president, Robert Singer, asked Vizer to “protect the rights of the Israeli national judo team and keep the spirit of sport free of political discrimination.”
The 12 Israelis participating in the two-day tournament that begins Thursday arrived in the United Arab Emirates one day later than planned, on Tuesday, due to problems with their visas. UAE and Israel do not have diplomatic relations.
Israel’s delegation will include Or Sasson, who won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016. During those games, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby refused to shake hands with Sasson.