Lebanese table tennis player refuses to play Israel, receives praise from Hamas

Hamas leaders told the 11-year-old girl that she was honoring the Arab world.

 Bissan Chiri has been praised by Lebanese officials for representing the country with honor. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)
Bissan Chiri has been praised by Lebanese officials for representing the country with honor.
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA)

Hamas praised a Lebanese 11-year-old contestant at a table tennis tournament in Portugal on Saturday for refusing to play against the Israeli contestant and pulling out of the tournament so that she wouldn't have to.

Contestants worldwide traveled to Portugal late in November, some of which were coming for the teen division of the tournament. Contestants in the World Table Tennis (WTT) Youth Star Contender Vila Nova de Gaia 2022 were set to play in the semi-final round, when 11-year-old Bissan Chiri of Lebanon refused to play her opponent, an Israeli contestant.

Chiri would have played 15-year-old Elinor Davidov, who was representing Israel in the tournament. Instead, Chiri decided to withdraw from the competition entirely. Though her official reason for withdrawing from the competition was not officially shared, her choice to depart the tournament rather than play Israeli athletes received widespread praise throughout the Arab world

On November 26th, Hamas issued a press release praising the young girl. Hamas, while based in Gaza, has recently been cooperating in conjunction with Hezbollah. However, operating in Lebanon has landed Hamas in hot water with Hezbollah, whose turf was invaded in the process.

Hamas complimented just one of many instances of competitors refusing to play Israeli competitors. A spokesperson called Chiri's actions representative of  an "honorable Arab position that reflects the Lebanese people's genuine sense of belonging for the Palestinian cause.”

chess alik gershon (credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)chess alik gershon (credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias)

From athletes to chess masters, competitors from countries like Jordan, Sudan, Algeria, Malaysia, and Iran were just a few of those who have broken rules by their refusal to compete with an Israeli contestant in 2022.

In November 2022, 36-year-old Lebanese tennis pro Mohamed Ataya allegedly pulled out of a Cyprus global tennis tournament in order to boycott his Israeli opponents.

Animosity goes beyond physical competition

In late 2020, Iranian grandmaster Ehsan Ghaem Maghami was expelled from an international chess tournament after refusing to play Israeli Ehud Sachar in the fourth round of the Corsica Masters championship, for political reasons.

Leo Battesti, the tournament's organizer, told AFP that "politics has no place in competition at this level. I was forced to expel Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, who unfortunately refused to change his mind." 

More than 800 players from 30 countries participated in the tournament, according to AFP, including about 40 Grandmasters and International Masters.