Israel says judo team barred from wearing national emblems in Abu Dhabi

Jerusalem (AFP) –


Israel on Monday denounced a decision by the organisers of a major judo tournament in Abu Dhabi preventing its team from wearing national emblems and the playing of their national anthem.

Organisers demanded that the 12 Israeli judokas participating in the mixed Abu Dhabi Grand Slam from October 26 to 28 not wear "ISR" on their uniforms and that the Israeli anthem not be played if they win, according to Israel's sport minister.

"The demand to appear without symbols is contrary to the mandate of international sports associations, the main aim of which is to separate politics from sport," Sport Minister Miri Regev wrote in a letter to Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.

"It is the obligation of any country which has the privilege of hosting an international competition to allow the competing athletes to represent the country honourably while ensuring their security."

The United Arab Emirates had not commented.

Israel and the UAE do not have diplomatic relations, as is the case with many Arab countries.

Israel's participation in international competitions has regularly led to hostile reactions and boycotts from Arab or Muslim organisations or athletes.

Last year at the Olympics, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby was jeered out of the arena in Rio after refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent Or Sasson.

Judo is a leading sport in Israel, and Sasson won one of the country's two bronze medals in Rio.

Israel's team will still travel to Abu Dhabi, but the minister will not, according to her spokesman.

Israel had previously accepted the conditions for the Abu Dhabi tournament in 2015, with its judokas wearing uniforms in the colours of the international federation.

"The important thing is to participate in the competition and to win, even more so in a country that does not want to hear about Israeli athletes," the spokesman said.