Algerian Judo athlete suspended from Tokyo Olympics after refusing to face Israeli opponent

On Friday, Fethi Nourine, an Olympic athlete who competes in the sport of Judo, was suspended from the Olympic games along with Nourine’s coach, Amar Benikhlef, after the two withdrew for refusing to compete against his Israeli opponent.

According to the Associated Press, Nourine “also quit the World Judo Championships in 2019 right before he was scheduled to face Butbul, who is a much more accomplished Judo athlete than Nourine.” Nourine clarified that his backing for the Palestinians would not permit him to compete with Butbul, an Israeli. “We worked a lot to reach the Olympics…but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this” [RT].

Judo is a system of unarmed combat, now primarily a sport. The rules of the sport of judo are complex. The objective is to cleanly throw, to pin, or to master the opponent, the latter being done by applying pressure to arm joints or to the neck to cause the opponent to yield [Britannica].

Politically driven conflicts and tensions including Israeli athletic competitors are not completely rare during the Olympics. Islamic El Shehaby from Egypt quit the sport at the 2016 edition in Rio, Brazil after turning down the opportunity to greet his triumphant Israeli opponent. The IJF handed Iran a four-year suspension earlier this year after ex-world champion Saeid Mollaei claimed he was ordered to lose a semi-final match at the 2019 World Championships in order to ensure he did not face an Israeli in the final.




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