Israeli judokas Gili Cohen, winner of the bronze medal in the Women's -52kg, and Tal Flicker, winner of the gold medal in the Men's -66kg category at the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO / HO / ISRAEL JUDO FEDERATION)
Two UAE judo officials apologized for a UAE athlete's refusal to shake hands with Israeli judokas at the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam tournament this week.
After Israel's Tohar Butbul defeated the UAE’s Rashad Almashjari in the first round on Wednesday, he held out his hand for a handshake. Almashjari turned his back and walked away, brushing off the attempt.
According to International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer, the president of the UAE Judo Federation Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al-Darei and General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council Aref Al-Awani apologized to Israel Judo Association President Mr. Moshe Ponti. Vizer also claimed that the officials congratulated the Israeli team for their success.
The 12-member Israeli judo team was indeed successful, leaving the tournament with five medals.
However, Israel and the UAE do not have diplomatic relations and the athletes were forced to compete as representatives of the International Judo Federation and without any Israeli symbols, citing security concerns. In addition, both the Israeli flag and national anthem were notably absent from medal ceremonies. Instead, organizers raised the flag of the International Judo Federation and played the anthem of the organization.
On Thursday, gold medalist Tal Flicker quietly mouthed the words of "HaTikva," the Israeli national anthem, during his medal ceremony.
WhatsApp founder Jan Koum shared a link to a YouTube video of the Israeli anthem on his Facebook page Sunday in honor of the victories.
Tal Flicker quietly mouthed the words of "HaTikva," the Israeli national anthem, during his medal ceremony in Abu Dhabi.(YouTube/Michel Mandel)
Ori Sasson, Peter Paltchik, Gili Cohen and Tohar Butbol all picked up bronze medals, and the Israeli flag was absent from the podium for each of them as well.
Vizer recognized the controversy, stating that relations with the Israeli Judo team have come a long way.
"I consider, that even without the flag and anthem of Israel, that their team have been treated very well with high respect during this event," he said. "Two years ago we achieved the first participation of Israel team in Abu Dhabi, now it’s the second time, but with a much better approach, and I hope in the near future we can achieve the best condition of participation for the Israel teams."