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Algerian judoka quits Olympics in snub to Israeli competitor

Algerian judoka quits Olympics in snub to Israeli competitor
2 min read
23 July, 2021
Fethi Nourine is the latest athlete to withdraw from an international sports competition in a show of opposition against Israel's ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories.
Israel's Tohar Butbul [White] was set for a potential matchup the Algerian judoka in the second round [Getty]

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine has bowed out of the Tokyo Olympics after learning on Thursday he would face a potential matchup against an Israeli opponent.

The 30-year-old athlete, who won the African Senior Judo Championships in South Africa in 2019, pulled out of the men’s under 73kg competition to avoid competing against Tohar Butbul, an Israeli judoka.

"We were not lucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that's why we had to retire. We made the right decision," Nourine’s coach, Amar Ben Yaklif, told Algerian media.

The Algerian athlete pulled out of the competition a day before the official opening of the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for Friday, after he was drawn to face Butbul in the second round if he were to advance past his first fight.

In 2019, Nourine had pulled out of the Judo World championships when also drawn to face Butbul.

The decision to boycott Israeli athletes is a recurring one in major sports competitions. At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shahaby refused to shake the hand of his victorious Israeli rival Or Sasson in the first round of the men’s over-100kg competition and quit the sport a few hours after.

Several Iranian judokas have also refused to compete against their Israeli counterparts.

Some countries, including Algeria, have no diplomatic relations with Israel, which is regarded as an occupying power.

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement regards withdrawing support from Israel's "apartheid regime" and Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions as an act of resistance aimed at pressuring Israel into compliance with international law.

A Palestinian delegation consisting of 11 people, including coaches, a delegation head and 5 athletes participating in 4 different sports – swimming, athletics, judo and weightlifting – will be present at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The athletes will aim to raise the Palestinian flag in Tokyo, a symbolic action that was carried out for the first time in 1996 by sprinter Majed Abu Maraheel during the opening ceremony of the Olympic games in Atlanta.

This article is part of The New Arab's special coverage of the Tokyo Olympics. Click here to read the whole series.