A second judo competitor was sent home from the Tokyo Olympics for refusing to spar with an Israeli athlete over “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians” — a move some are calling an example of an undercurrent of anti-Semitism running through an otherwise “woke” Olympics.
Algeria’s Fetih Nourine withdrew from competition on Saturday rather than have to face Israel’s Tohar Butbul, who ended up finishing in 7th place after losing to an athlete from South Korea. Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalarasool did not show up to compete against Butbul during a scheduled match on Monday.
Abdalarasool is the second such athlete to withdraw from competition rather than face Butbul over “what appear to be political reasons,” according to Fox News. Nourine publicly withdrew from his match with Butbul late last week, earning himself both a suspension from Olympic competition and a temporary suspension from judo competition generally, from the International Judo Federation.
“Algeria’s Fetih Nourine withdrew from the Olympics completely on Saturday after learning he would potentially face Butbul if he defeated Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalarasool. Nourine cited specifically Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as a reason for dropping out,” Fox reported. “The International Judo Federation (IJF) temporarily suspended Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef for violating the organization’s rules protecting the ‘neutrality of sport at the Olympic Games.'”
“Judo sport is based on a strong moral code, including respect and friendship, to foster solidarity and we will not tolerate any discrimination, as it goes against the core values and principles of our sport,” the IJF said in a statement.
Abdalarasool and his coach did not specify why the athlete failed to show up to his match, perhaps over concerns about a temporary suspension of their own.
Butbul and Nourine have a history. The latter withdrew from the 2019 World Judo Championships rather than have to face down the Israeli.
Butbul, for his part, told media that he was more disappointed in himself for his seventh-place finish than he was in the athletes who withdrew over what appear to be anti-Semitic reasons.
“I came with a pure aim to win a medal, and it’s very hard for me to bear that I didn’t fulfill my own expectations,” he said. “That was the goal I put into the whole of my career. It’s still too early for me to understand what happened. I wasn’t precise in executing my plan, but in judo sometimes there is a gap between how you plan and what is in reality.”
Nourine was less muted.
“We have worked hard to qualify for the Games, but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all that,” he said. “My position is consistent on the Palestinian issue, and I reject normalisation, and if it cost me that absence from the Olympic Games, God will compensate.”
“We were unlucky with the draw, an Israeli opponent came out and that’s why we had to withdraw, we made the right decision,” Nourine’s coach, Amar Benijlef told an Algerian television network, per Middle East Eye. “We have worked hard to qualify for the Games, but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all that.”
There has been something of an undercurrent of anti-Semitism dogging the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, even though the Games are expected to be the “wokest” in history now that the International Olympic Committee suspended most of Rule 50, which barred athletes from making political protests or demonstrations during the games. Only protests on the medal podium continue to be prohibited.
Early on, a Tokyo Games organizer was forced to resign following allegations he made an inappropriate joke about the Holocaust.