Israel-UAE no handshake incident at judo tournament leads to apology

Israel-UAE no handshake incident at judo tournament leads to apology
United Arab Emirates (UAE) sporting officials have apologized to their Israeli counterparts after a UAE team member declined to shake the hand of a Jewish competitor at a judo tournament in Abu Dhabi.

The incident occurred last Friday at the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam when a UAE athlete, Rashad Almashjari, snubbed a handshake with Israel's Tohar Butbul, an eventual bronze medalist, following their first-round bout in the men’s lightweight category.

The president of the UAE's Judo Federation, Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al-Darei, apologized for Almashjari’s controversial behavior and shook hands with Israel Judo Association President Moshe Ponte at a meeting that took place on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.

"This was a gesture of courage, humanity and respect for the sport," said Marius Vizer, the head of the International Judo Federation (IJF), who took part in the meeting.       

"[They] apologized because of the UAE athletes not shaking hands with the Israel athletes and also congratulated the Israel team for their success here," CNN reported.

The tournament was staged against the backdrop of political tensions between Israel and the UAE, who don’t have diplomatic and economic relations as the majority of Arab state governments don’t recognize Israel as a state.

Israel’s national symbols, including the flag and anthem, were prohibited at the judo tournament in Abu Dhabi, where Israeli athletes were named representatives of the IJF.

Israeli team members were not allowed to wear judo uniforms depicting symbols of their nationality despite numerous efforts by the IJF to ensure equal treatment of all delegations at the tournament.

Five Israeli medal winners were greeted by the official music of the IJF during award ceremonies, where the organization’s banner was raised instead of the national flag.

A similar incident happened at the last year’s Olympic Games in Brazil, when Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby refused to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent, Or Sasson, following their bout.

Back then, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to exclude El Shehaby from the rest of the tournament.