A judoka from the United Arab Emirates refused to shake the hand of the Israeli rival who defeated him at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament Friday, a day after the UAE refused to play the Israeli national anthem or fly the Israeli flag for medal-winning Israeli athletes at the competition.
Israel’s Tohar Butbul, competing in the men’s lightweight (66-73 kg) category, came up against the UAE’s Rashad Almashjari in the first round. After being defeated by Butbul, Almashjari refused the customary handshake with the Israeli.
Butbul went on to win a bronze medal in his category — by defeating Italy’s 2016 Olympic gold medalist; it was Israel’s third medal in the competition.
The no-handshake episode was reminiscent of one that occurred during the 2016 Summer Olympics, when Egyptian judoka Islam El Shahaby refused to shake hands with Ori Sasson after being defeated by the Israeli, and only begrudgingly made the obligatory end-of-match bow after being being called back to the mat by the referee.
On Thursday, event organizers refused to play the Israeli national anthem or display the Israeli flag when Israeli judoka Tal Flicker won the gold medal in the men’s under-66kg category.
Flicker sang out his own private “Hatikvah” under the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) flag, as the federation’s anthem played in the background.
On the women’s side Thursday, Gili Cohen won bronze in the under-52 kilograms (114 pounds) class. The Israeli flag was not flown on her behalf either.
The entire Israeli team was required to compete without any Israeli identifying symbols, and had been told before the tournament that there would be no acknowledgement of their home country — a discriminatory policy imposed solely on the Israeli competitors.
The ban on Israeli symbols came despite the IJF’s demand before the tournament that the UAE treat Israeli athletes equally.
A letter from the IJF to the president of the UAE Judo Federation said “all delegations, including the Israeli delegation, shall be treated absolutely equally in all aspects, without any exception.”
Israeli judokas were also banned from displaying any Israeli symbols at a 2015 tournament in Abu Dhabi.
There was no word yet as to what repercussions, if any, would be taken against the UAE for its actions.