TEL AVIV – A Palestinian boxer who refused to compete against an Israeli Druze in the world’s most prestigious championship said he chose not to fight because doing so would be “beneath his dignity.”
In a video released and translated last week by Israeli monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch, Sultan Abu Al-Haj explained that the decision to decline a bout with Israeli Druze Amit Mdah at the Youth World Boxing Championship held earlier this month in Bangkok, Thailand was made for him by the Palestinian Olympic Committee.
“I didn’t make the decision. My trainers and the [Palestinian] Olympic Committee made the decision, and as a competitor I cannot oppose them. … The decision was reached that it is forbidden to compete with [Israelis], because it’s beneath our dignity to compete with them and recognize them as (sic) the State of Israel,” Al-Haj said on a show broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV.
The move, which occurred in the quarter-finals, cost Al-Haj a medal and Mdah ended up bagging the bronze with a technical win. Sixteen-year-old Mdah lives in Sumei, an Arab town in Israel’s north with a population of Druze and Christian Arabs.
Athletes from the Muslim and Arab world have been known to snub Israelis in the past. Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, said competing against Israelis “is a crime against humanity.”
During last year’s Rio Olympics, Egyptian judoka Islam el-Shahabi refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent after the latter defeated him in a match.
In Iran last week, two soccer players who play for Greek teams were condemned with the threat of being ousted from the country’s national team for playing against Israelis.