Israeli flag expected to fly at Qatar gymnastics event

Israeli gymnastics team arrives in Doha, Qatar, on 20 October. (via Facebook

Israel’s sports and culture minister Miri Regev reportedly arrived in the United Arab Emirates late this week along with her country’s judo team, part of a blitz of Israeli normalization with Arab states in the region.

The newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi and other media published a photo purportedly showing Regev and the Israeli athletes smiling and displaying an Israeli flag in Abu Dhabi.

An Israeli national team also arrived last week in the Qatari capital Doha for the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, which started Thursday.

Jacki Vishnia, the manager of the Israeli delegation, told Israel’s Ynet that Qatar warmly welcomed the team.

“The organizers checked to see if the flag is okay this morning. They played the [Israeli national anthem] Hatikva and we signed everything, so we hope that when we get to the hall, the organizers will respect us as they promised.”

“We are preparing for the competition. We were very well received and we’re happy with the hospitality,” Vishnia added.

Promise to display Israeli symbols

Israeli lawmaker Yoel Razvozov demanded through the Israel Gymnastics Federation in September that the Qatar Gymnastics Federation display Israeli symbols at the event.

The president of the Qatari federation responded by promising “that Israeli gymnasts will be treated the same way as athletes from other countries participating in competitions.”

“Qatar is a friendly country that seeks to ensure safety and equal treatment of all athletes who come to the country. We love sports and treat with due respect all athletes who represent their country and are ambassadors of the world,” he added.

The norm is that participants who win medals can have their flag displayed. If they win gold, their national anthem is played as well.

Israeli soldier participating

A member of the Israeli team, Artem Dolgopyat, 21, is an active duty soldier in the Israeli army.

He requires special permission to travel outside Israel, and was reportedly granted that by the army one day before the delegation’s departure to Qatar.

Another member, Ofir Netzar, 19, also served in the Israeli military and intelligence, according to the activist group Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalization, which denounced the team’s participation:

The International Gymnastics Federation published a video of Dolgopyat competing in Doha on Thursday:
Dolgopyat ranked fourth so far in the championship and it’s possible he will advance to the next stage.

The Israeli team posted pictures of their time in Doha on Facebook.

In September, the United Arab Emirates judo federation capitulated to Israel’s demands to exhibit its flag and play its national anthem at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam competition in October.

The International Judo Federation initially canceled the Abu Dhabi event, along with one in Tunisia, after the two countries refused to normalize Israeli participation.

The international federation reinstated the Abu Dhabi competition.

Israeli culture minister Miri Regev thanked the president of the International Judo Federation, Marius Vizer, whom she lobbied extensively to exclude the UAE and Tunisia from judo events, and said she planned to join the Israeli team traveling to the Emirates.

Anti-normalization efforts

The Palestinian Anti-Normalization Center condemned the Israeli team’s participation in the Doha gymnastics championship, and urged against “the desecration of the land of Qatar by hosting those who spill the blood of Palestinians.”

Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalization called on organizers to ban the delegation:

Others took to Twitter to express their opposition to Qatar’s normalization of ties with Israel:

Lebanon students refuse normalization

On Tuesday, activists in Beirut walked out of a lecture by Jeff McMahan, an American professor affiliated with Israel’s Hebrew University, chanting: “We will not forgive, we will not sell, we will not agree to normalization.”

McMahan’s lecture, titled “Rethinking the Ethics of War,” was held at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.

McMahan is an Oxford University academic affiliated with the Center for Moral and Political Philosophy department at the Hebrew University.

Student groups contacted McMahan prior to his lecture, urging him to withdraw on the basis that hosting him would violate the academic boycott of Israel.

“I disagree with you about tactics for achieving justice for Palestinians. A boycott of Israeli academics is a form of collective punishment and as such is itself unjust,” McMahan responded, according to a statement from the student groups sent to The Electronic Intifada.

“Not only is McMahan affiliated with an institution that is complicit in war crimes, but, on a secondary level, his own criticism of Israel extends to little more than a critique of settlement expansions and various ‘unjust policies,’” student clubs stated.

Hebrew University is complicit in theft of Palestinian land and other forms of discrimination. It also opposes the BDS movement.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.