Anti Semitism and hate for the nation of Israel showed itself in its most pitiful form during the Judo match between Israeli Or Sasson, who eventually went on to get a bronze medal, and Egyptian Islam El Shehaby, who refused to shake hands with the Israeli Judoka after losing.
The fight itself, during the round of 32 of the men’s 100 kilograms Judo competition, was completely dominated by Sasson, a silver medalist from the 2016 European championships in Kazan, who finished it with an Ippon after already scoring a Yuko earlier. At the end of Judo matches, both fighters face each other, tidy up their judogi (judo clothing) and bow to each other. Sasson approached El Shehaby to shake hands with him, but the Egyptian refused and turned his back. Sasson went for the high five, and got turned down again. The referee ordered El Shehaby to return to the ceremonial position, and he gave the smallest possible bow. The crowd in the arena booed El Shehaby as he made his way off and out of the Olympics.
The background to all of this? Well, we wont go into the details of the entire Middle East conflict in this piece. However, one thing is worth remembering: Egypt and Israel are two nations that are supposedly at peace, but it’s more of a cold peace, or simply a non-aggression pact more than anything else. El Shehaby himself is anti-Israeli, and is against normalization with Israel.
In the days leading up to the fight, when the draw was made pitting him with Sasson, he had enormous pressure on him to refuse to even appear, which already happened once in these Olympic games, with a Saudi Judoka refusing to face an Israeli one, resulting in the Israeli moving on to the next stage. This happens in some international tournaments, as competitors from most arab nations and some muslim ones refuse to compete against an Israeli team/athlete, as their countries do not recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel. In the end, he chose to fight but not respect the sport or the guy who beat him, losing in every possible way and from every possible direction.
El Shehaby instead chose to fight, but didn’t seem too much into it during the match. Maybe it was poor preparation due to the media frenzy around his participation, maybe he was simply inferior. The reactions in Egypt and the Arab world through social media channels is mixed. Many praised him simply for not shaking the Israeli’s hand, ignoring the fact that he lost by Judo’s version of a knockout. Others criticized him for humiliating himself and the nation by losing to Sasson. More than anything, he disgraced himself, the country he’s representing, and the spirit of the Olympic games.
Earlier in the games, the bus ride to the opening ceremony somehow put the Israeli delegation along with the one from Lebanon on the same bus. The Lebanese, already on the bus when the Israelis arrived, refused to let the Israelis board the bus, and some of them physically blocked the door and entrance. The IOC and organizers did nothing in terms of punishment, simply organizing a different ride for the Israeli group to the Maracana stadium.