Friday night saw a parade of athletes from nearly every country around the world, but even in a time of music and celebration, information was passed along to news sources that didn’t quite pass muster when held up to the light. It seems that Palestinian Olympic Swimmer Mary al-Atrash said her training was hindered because there were no Olympic-sized (50-meter-long pool) pools she could access due to the occupation. The Palestinian Olympic swimmer claimed that she was not allowed access to any of Israel’s regulation sized pools.
Various news outlets took the story shared by the Palestinian Olympic team and praised Olympic swimmer Mary al-Atrash for her ability to make it to the Olympics despite the hurdles that politics put in her way. Writer Sarah Aziza, who is of Palestinian heritage, wrote a story in praise of al-Atrash, as she understood the difficulty of being Palestinian and “the daily battle for respect in the face of so many slamming doors.” But Aziz, who doesn’t know al-Atrash personally, passed along the story of the lack of appropriate swimming facilities in Palestine, while Israel is swimming in them.
“On her journey to the Olympics, she’s had to make do with sub-par resources available in her West Bank town (there are no Olympic-sized swimming pools accessible to her there), while a few miles away, on the other side of military checkpoints, Israeli athletes train in state-of-the-art facilities.”
Perhaps there was a misunderstanding along the way, but several other media outlets who did additional research found that the story passed along by Matt Lauer and his NBC crew covering the Olympic Opening Ceremonies simply didn’t add up.
Palestinian swimmer fails to qualify for Olympics. Guess who she blames.https://t.co/BsRZjbZ4d1
— (((BritsForIsrael))) (@BritsForIsrael) August 8, 2016
Tablet told the other side of the story in an article called “The Palestinian Olympic-Swimming-Pool-Sized Lie,” explaining that more than one of the claims about the Middle East and swimming pools is untrue. The article says that the claims about there being no Olympic-sized pools in Palestine is false, and the idea that an Olympic-caliber athlete would not be allowed to use Israeli facilities is, at worst, a lie, but at best, it’s a misunderstanding about rules and laws of the region. Rather than being a story of hardship, Tablet is saying that this is just another convenient way to blame Israel.
Liel Leibovitz, a senior writer for Tablet, researched the pool situation in the region, made some calls, and at the very least, came up with solutions for Palestinian Olympic swimmer Mary al-Atrash that she did not know existed. The Israeli government office for coordinating activities in the West Bank, or COGAT, put out a statement last month on their Facebook page to clarify the issue of training in Israel.
“FACT CHECK: Mary al-Atrash CAN train for the Olympics in Jerusalem, if she ever applied for a permit.
The Olympic candidate, Mary al-Atrash, claimed she cannot train for the Rio Olympics due to ‘Israeli Restrictions’. However, we found Mary never applied for a permit to train in Jerusalem in the first place. Rather than investigate the truth, it’s a shame that media outlets such as Mondoweiss use these stories to paint Israel in a negative light.
We wish Mary the best of luck at the 2016 Rio Olympics and hope she will come train in Jerusalem upon her return.”
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) August 6, 2016
If for whatever reason Mary al-Atrash does not want to apply for a permit and train in Israel, Leibovitz says that there are several nice Olympic-sized pools within the borders of Palestine.
“There’s this luxurious one in Gaza, built, maybe, with some of the leftover cement Hamas could spare after squandering billions on its terror tunnels; there’s one in Nablus; and when I called the folks over at the Murad resort in al-Atrash’s native Beit Sakhour, they assured me that their pool, too, was properly Olympically endowed. Water, water everywhere, then, and not a drop for swimming.”
— Palestine Trends (@Palestinolizer) August 6, 2016
But Breitbart isn’t mincing words in this situation and claims that Mary al-Atrash and the Palestinian Olympic Authority simply lied about the lack of an appropriate pool to stir up trouble with Israel. It is also being reported that Mary al-Atrash’s complaints are moot “because athletes only need a regulation-sized pool.”
It is also being mentioned that the complaints are also coming because Mary al-Atrash was not able to come up with the qualifying time to go to the Rio Olympics but was allowed in under a special program that “exempts athletes from nations with an underdeveloped sports framework who do not meet the qualifying criteria.”
What do you think of this story about the Palestinian swimmer and the story that was passed along at the Olympic opening ceremonies in Rio?
[Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images]