A Kuwaiti jiu-jitsu fighter withdrew from a tournament after he was paired with an Israeli fighter.
Meanwhile, Malaysia chose to forfeit its hosting of the World Para Swimming Championships rather than grant visas to Israeli nationals. The Asian nation took the decision in solidarity with Palestinians, but has been fiercely attacked for its stance.
Abdullah al-Anjari was scheduled to compete with Eitan Seri-Levi at the All Americas Jiu-Jitsu Tournament in Los Angeles earlier this week.
“I declare my withdrawal from a local tournament in Los Angeles because I was paired with a fighter who represents the Zionist entity,” the Kuwaiti athlete stated on Twitter.
“Palestine is more important to me than a world championship.”
Al-Anjari received widespread support from fellow Kuwaitis and others from the region:
History of anti-normalization
Many Kuwaiti athletes have withdrawn from championships over Israeli participation in the past, as Muhammad al-Awadi wrote in Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai.
In November, Kuwaiti olympic athlete Abdulaziz al-Shatti withdrew from the World Fencing Championship in Switzerland after he was set to compete against Israeli player Grigori Beskin.
The Kuwaiti National Assembly hailed “the withdrawal of national player Abdulaziz al-Shatti from the World Fencing Championship in Switzerland in rejection of competing against a player from the occupying Zionist entity.”
Kuwaiti Saleh Abdulaziz al-Haddad also withdrew from a long jump championship in Belgium over the participation of an Israeli athlete in June. He was also commended by the Kuwaiti National Assembly.
In 2015, Kuwaiti athlete Fahad al-Bastaki withdrew from the Wheelchair Fencing World Cup in Pisa, Italy, after learning he would face an Israeli.
And, Kuwait recently refused to co-host the FIFA World Cup with Qatar in 2022 for reasons that relate to the attendance or participation of Israeli nationals in the championship.
Malaysia takes a stance
Meanwhile, as several Gulf states race to embrace Israel, Malaysia took a firm stance against normalization.
The International Paralympic Committee has stripped Malaysia of its right to host the World Para Swimming Championships in July and August over the country’s refusal to allow Israeli athletes to participate.
The championship is important for qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
“Malaysia will not host any event that has representation from or participation of Israel,” Saifuddin Abdullah, the Malaysian foreign minister, stated.
Israel’s foreign ministry condemned Malaysia’s decision, labeling its Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as anti-Semitic for refusing to normalize relations with Israel.
Echoing the Israeli foreign minister, a representative of the European Union, a staunch supporter of normalization with Israel, celebrated the decision to withdraw the swimming contest from Malaysia as “an important victory against discrimination, racism and anti-Semitism.”
Malaysia’s foreign ministry said that it was “deeply disgusted” by Israel’s smears against the Malaysian prime minister.
“For more than half a century, Israel has continued to disregard the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, while committing inhumane policies and practices that are in clear violation of international laws. Israel has no right to talk about moral values when they themselves are the exact opposite,” the ministry stated.
“[Israel is] a country which does not obey international laws, including building settlements in other people’s countries,” Prime Minister Mahathir recently stated at the United Nations.
Mahathir also referred to Israel’s raids on maritime aid conveys headed for Gaza: “They have raided these in international waters, and the ships were arrested and taken to Israeli ports.”
“There are many other things that are done by Israel that are against international law, that are against morality and human rights,” Mahathir added. “We cannot do anything to Israel, but we don’t want to have anything to do with them.”
Since the Great March of Return protests against the siege of Gaza began last March, thousands of Palestinians, including athletes, have been shot by Israeli snipers, many suffering permanent disabilities.
Malaysia has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel.
- Arab normalization
- Saifuddin Abdullah
- Great March of Return
- World Para Swimming Championships
- Abdullah al-Anjari
- Eitan Seri-Levi
- All Americas Jiu-Jitsu Tournament
- Los Angeles
- Muhammad al-Awadi
- World Fencing Championship
- Grigori Beskin
- Abdulaziz al-Shatti
- Kuwaiti National Assembly
- Saleh Abdulaziz al-Haddad
- Fahad al-Bastaki
- Wheelchair Fencing World Cup
- World Cup
- International Paralympic Committee
- 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
- Mahathir Mohamad
- European Union