A legal team headed by US lawyer and academic Alan Dershowitz is preparing a international lawsuit to force Arab countries that host sports events to allow Israeli athletes to compete under the Jewish state’s flag and play its national anthem if they win.
Israeli athletes face various restrictions when competing in the Middle East or against Arab countries due to hostility toward the Jewish state. Gulf countries have allowed Israelis to compete, but without the Israeli flag or other symbols displayed on the athletes’ uniform or in the competition facility.
Jerusalem has long considered pursuing legal action against the practice but postponed it for various reasons. But now a legal team, assembled by Yesh Atid MK Yoel Razvozov, is working on a lawsuit on the issue to be filed at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, an international body for settling disputes related to sport.
“As a former Olympic athlete and as a Knesset member, I cannot tolerate seeing Israeli athletes being forced to compete without our flag, our anthem and our national colors,” said Razvozov, a former Israeli judo champion, in a statement.
“It is humiliating for the country and it is a capitulation to extremism. The Arab world is using sport as a political tool against Israel’s very existence,” he said.
The team is being headed by Dershowitz, former New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco, and lawyer Jon Purizhansky.
“It may begin in sports but it doesn’t end in sports,” said Dershowitz. “If this is allowed to continue in sports it will spread to other areas of life, it is part of the BDS approach and tactic and we have to stop it at its core.”
“There is no better place to stop this than in sports because the vast majority of spectators and participants do not want to see sport politicized, they do not want to see hatred enter into the sporting arena,” he added. “We will not let anyone give second class status to the nation state of the Jewish people, Israel should be given equal status and we will achieve it.”
In October, the UAE was criticized after Israeli Tal Flicker won gold at a judo tournament but was forced to silently mouth the Israeli national anthem as the International Judo Federation’s anthem played instead.
The same happened when Yarden Gerbi and Sagi Muki each won a bronze medal at a judo Grand Slam tournament in Abu Dhabi in 2015, and when athletes were also barred from displaying Israeli symbols at the same event two years later.
In December, Israeli chess players were barred from competing in the world championship in Saudi Arabia after Riyadh refused to issue visas for them.