The Israeli team is competing in this year’s Judo World Championship, and some of its athletes have previously served in the occupying army which is routinely accused of committing human rights violations against Palestinians.
On Monday the World Judo Masters kicked off in Doha with 399 athletes from 69 different countries competing in the International Judo Federation’s most prestigious competition.
However, whilst many will be enjoying yet another international sporting event here in Qatar, there has been noticeable criticism over this latest tournament.
Among the judokas are thirteen Israelis, one of whom – Sagi Muki – is a former Sergeant in the Israeli army. Muki served in its vehicle division, which has been accused by rights groups of overseeing daily attacks on Palestinians. Judoka Peter Paltchik, another Israeli athlete, previously served in the occupation’s Air Force.
The participation of the players has not been welcomed by many in Qatar, sparking outrage all over social media.
Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalisation [QAYON], an independent local youth body known for speaking up against any attempts at normalising with Israel, along with many residents and citizens have condemned the participation of the Israeli team.
“The presence of players from the Zionist entity in our sporting events and in our country is only serves to cement the occupation, and its ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people since the Nakba,” QAYON said in a twitter thread.
People on social media have also called on authorities to stop enabling the participation and recognition of Israelis in the country with this not being the first sports event that has involved athletes from Israel.
In 2019, Qatar hosted the World Athletics Championships which also saw the attendance and participation of players representing Israel. The same year also saw Israeli players at the International Gymnastics Federation Artistic World Cup, where the national anthem was sung.
Despite the recent wave of normalisation with Israel, which began with the UAE and Bahrain late last year, Qatar has repeatedly emphasised its refusal in doing so without the formation of a sovereign Palestinian country with Jerusalem as its capital.
In a recent statement, Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that his country has no intention to follow its neighbours when it comes to relations with Israel.
“Qatar believes that if Israel is committed to peace, to end the occupation, the two-state solution, and the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and if there is Arab approval, we accept that,” he told the Doha-based Al Jazeera Arabic news channel in an interview which aired on Thursday.
The foreign minister also emphasised his country’s commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative, which was adopted back in 2002 by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and which states that member countries shall refrain from normalising with Israel until it fully withdraws from lands occupied in 1967.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani also ruled out normalisation back in November, describing it as a “mere illusion”, adding that peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved as long as the occupation of Palestinian land continues and its people are denied the ability to exercise their legitimate rights.
Qatar has consistently condemned violations committed by the illegal Israeli occupation, calling for a permanent, just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian case in accordance with international law.