Israel says judo team barred from wearing national emblems in UAE
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Israel says judo team barred from wearing national emblems in UAE

Judokas will go to Abu Dhabi Grand Slam but organizers won’t play anthem if Israel wins, won’t allow team to wear blue uniform

Israel's Or Sasson celebrates after defeating Cuba's Alex Garcia Mendoza to win the men's +100kg judo bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 12, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / Toshifumi KITAMURA)
Israel's Or Sasson celebrates after defeating Cuba's Alex Garcia Mendoza to win the men's +100kg judo bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 12, 2016 (AFP PHOTO / Toshifumi KITAMURA)

Israel on Monday denounced a decision by the organizers of a major judo tournament in Abu Dhabi preventing its team from wearing national emblems and the playing of its national anthem.

Organizers demanded that the 12 Israeli judokas participating in the mixed Abu Dhabi Grand Slam from October 26 to 28 not wear “ISR” on their uniforms and that the Israeli anthem not be played if they win, according to Israel’s sports minister.

Culture Minister Miri Regev arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 11, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

“The demand to appear without symbols is contrary to the mandate of international sports associations, the main aim of which is to separate politics from sport,” Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev wrote in a letter to Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.

“It is the obligation of any country which has the privilege of hosting an international competition to allow the competing athletes to represent the country honorably while ensuring their security.”

The United Arab Emirates had not commented.

Israel and the UAE do not have diplomatic relations, as is the case with many Arab countries.

Israel’s participation in international competitions has regularly led to hostile reactions and boycotts from Arab or Muslim organizations or athletes.

Last year at the Olympics, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby was jeered out of the arena in Rio after refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent Or Sasson.

Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby (blue) refuses to shake hands after defeat by Israel’s Or Sasson in their men’s over-100kg judo contest at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on August 12, 2016. (AFP/Toshifumi Kitamura)

Judo is a leading sport in Israel, and Sasson won one of the country’s two bronze medals in Rio.

Israel’s team will still travel to Abu Dhabi, but the minister will not, according to her spokesman.

Israel had previously accepted the conditions for the Abu Dhabi tournament in 2015, with its judokas wearing uniforms in the colors of the international federation.

The Israel Judo Association said that it doesn’t want to get involved in politics.

“Our goal is the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the competitions are a means to that goal,” a spokesman said.

“The important thing is to participate in the competition and to win, even more so in a country that does not want to hear about Israeli athletes,” he said.

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