In a radical departure from its entrenched position on banning the use of Israeli symbols by athletes at their international sporting events, the United Arab Emirates has announced that the Israeli flag may be displayed and the Israeli national anthem may be sung by Israeli athletes at the upcoming Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
On Monday, the International Judo Federation issued a statement saying that Israelis will be given an opportunity to compete equally in the competition that attracts athletes from around the world.
According to a Times of Israel report, this July the IJF had “stripped the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia from hosting two international tournaments due to their failure to guarantee equal treatment of Israeli athletes, who were not allowed to compete under their nation’s flag or play the national anthem if they won.”
Their statement said that they were “pleased to announce that… the UAE Judo Federation confirmed in an official letter sent to the IJF that all nations participating in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam will have the possibility to do so in equal conditions.”
The tournament is due to take place on October 25-27.
The federation praised the UAE for its “fair-play and mutual friendship and respect,” and for taking a “huge step forward in establishing and promoting peaceful relationships between all nations of the world.”
“The historic decision will thus allow all nations to display their national insignia and national anthem, including Israel,” the statement said.
At last year’s event in Abu Dhabi, the five Israeli medalists were singled out for the denial of their nationality in terms of displaying of their flag and having their anthem played. The Israeli competitors instead competed under the flag of the IJF due to the UAE’s non-recognition of Israel.
In defiance of the draconian and overtly racist dictate, gold medal winner Tal Flicker did sing “Hatikvah” – (the Israeli national anthem) in a private manner as the IDF’s anthem played in the background and its flag was raised.
During last year’s event, two judokas from the UAE and Morocco refused to shake the hands of their Israeli competitors, according to the TOI report. The UAE’s top judo official later apologized to his Israeli counterpart over the snub.
In a video message, Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of Culture and Sport had proudly announced the UAE reversal earlier today. She said that Israeli athletes will now be accorded the respect and dignity that all other athletes are accustomed to.
The head of Israel’s judo federation has said he sincerely believes Israeli judokas will be allowed to display their national symbols in future events.
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