Egyptian judoka refuses to shake Israeli opponent's hand

Ross Houston
August 13, 2016

Israeil judoka Or Sasson defeated his Egyptian rival, Islam El Shehaby, in their August 12 match in Rio de Janeiro. When the referee called El Shehaby back to the mat to perform the customary bow, the athlete simply nodded his head quickly.

Judo players always bow or shake each other's hands before and after the match as a sign of respect in the Japanese martial art. Neither El Shehaby nor Sasson commented on the incident after the match. As per custom, Sasson can be seen bowing to the Egyptian judoka but El Shehaby did not return that honor. Muslim athletes have refused to compete with Israeli athletes in the past.

"This is already a big improvement that Arabic countries accept to be opposed to Israel", he said.

As my friend Bre Payton over at The Federalist has written, this is hardly the only case of anti-Israel behavior during these Olympics.

El Shehaby seemed conflicted about his decision to participate as the bout drew nearer.

It was an "unacceptable" and "unfortunate" move, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said.

Ahead of El Shehaby's Olympic opener a TV host on an Al-Sharq Islamist-leaning network urged him to pull out.

"My son, watch out". "Egypt will cry; Egypt will be sad and you will be seen as a traitor and a normalizer in the eyes of your people".

Shehaby, 32, had been reportedly pressured by fans in social media not to show up for his scheduled fight with his Israeli opponent because it would shame Islam, but he decided not to withdraw from the match.

Such behavior by Arab athletes against Israeli athletes are "the norm and there are few if no exceptions to boycotting Israel and Israelis", Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, told last week.

In a Facebook post, journalist Galal Nassar said: "As long as you agreed to play an Israeli champion in the Olympics, you should have exchanged the greeting".

Earlier in the Games, Saudi judoka Joud Fahmy forfeited a first round match that, if she had won, would set her up for a clash against Israeli rival Gili Cohen. "We have lost in terms of sports and politics", Nassar said.

Yarden Gerbi then became the toast of Israel by claiming the country's first Olympic medal in eight years when she took a bronze in the women's under-63kg competition on Tuesday.

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