Iraq's national fencing team withdrew from the World Fencing Championship in Istanbul after being pitted against the Israeli national team, Iraq's national Iraqi News Agency reported on Friday.
"The Iraqi national team withdrew from the individual races in the World Cup fencing championship, which is taking place in Istanbul and qualifies for the Paris Olympics after the lottery pitted it against the team of the 'occupying Israeli entity,'" said the Iraqi Fencing Federation, according to the report.
"The decision to withdraw came in compliance with the law criminalizing normalization approved by the Iraqi parliament, in rejection of the occupying Israeli entity, and in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.”
Israeli fencers will compete in the team competition in the Fencing World Cup in Istanbul on Sunday. In the individual competition on Saturday, Yonatan Cohen was knocked out in the round of 32, while Yuval Shalom Freilich was knocked out in the round of 16.
Iraq bans 'normalization' with Israel on penalty of death
Last year, the Iraqi parliament passed legislation criminalizing any form of "normalization" with Israel, banning all Iraqi citizens from having any political, economic, cultural, or any other form of communication with Israeli citizens, even through social media. The punishment set for such interactions with Israelis is the death sentence or imprisonment.
Most of Iraq's Jews fled the country after violent riots, known as the Farhud, targeted Jewish citizens in 1941, killing as many as 180 and injuring hundreds. By 1951, about 124,000 out of the 135,000 Jews in the country had immigrated to Israel; those who remained suffered persecution for decades.
The decision by the Iraqi athletes to throw the match is the latest in a long series of boycotts against Israel in the sporting world.
In March, Indonesia was stripped of the right to host the under-20 soccer FIFA World Cup after its football federation (PSSI) said it had canceled the draw after the governor of the largely Hindu island of Bali refused to host Israel's team.
In February, South Africa Rugby announced that Israel was no longer invited to a competition in March after pressure from the South African BDS Coalition, an affiliate of the Palestinian BDS National Committee that promotes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. In April, rugby’s global governing body determined that the move was not discriminatory.
Reuters, Jacob Gurvis/JTA contributed to this report.