There was some tension between Israel and Egypt, not in the Middle East but at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Reportedly, Egyptian judoka, Islam El Shehaby, refused to shake hands with Israeli judoka, Or Sasson, after Shehaby lost to Sasson in their bout.
Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby loses to Israeli Or Sasson, refuses to shake hands in a major breach of etiquette. pic.twitter.com/kOU1oAd5YW
— Zaid Benjamin (@zaidbenjamin) August 12, 2016
According to an article written by NBC My News 4, the two judo competitors faced off in a bout on Friday in the early rounds of the men’s heavyweight division for Judo. Or Sasson emerged victorious in the bout and following his win, went to shake Islam El Shehaby’s hand. However, El Shehaby backed away in what looked like an attempt to avoid contact. The crowd responded with disdain as numerous “boos” echoed about. Mark Doran, a commentator for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC), provided a statement that sums up Islam El Shehaby’s actions while somewhat praising Or Sasson’s response to Shehaby’s back-peddle.
“Very disappointing. That is what the Olympics is not about. To his credit, Sasson just moved on.”
Along with not shaking Or Sasson’s hand, Islam El Shehaby walked off the mat without bowing. The referee called him back to bow in which Shehaby returned to give a quick nod of the head.
Islam El Shehaby is an ultraconservative Salafi. This means he is a fundamentalist who believes in a return to the original ways of Islam. This does not necessarily mean he is opposed to Israel and Jews, but reports state that he was “under pressure” to withdraw from the bout. A spokesman for the International Judo Federation stated that the ethics commission will review the incident. Islam El Shehaby is on the chopping block for his actions not shaking hands with Or Sasson and forgetting to bow, but he is recognized for his willingness to compete against him.
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) August 14, 2016
Etiquette is said to be an integral part of Judo. The Japanese martial art that traces back to the 16th century begins and ends with bows as a demonstration in which opponents recognize the character of the other person, showing respect to them. Kodokan Judo Institute further details the said etiquette in Judo as read on their official website.
“In Judo practice or competition, the protagonists look to defeat each other as they grapple. If the spirit of Rei [a bow] is lost, the encounter descends into a violent struggle, a fight, and the possibility to learn anything of any value falls by the wayside.”
As mentioned earlier, Islam El Shehaby actually grappling with Or Sasson. According to Times of Israel, a bout between a Muslim from the Arab States and a Jew from Israel would be in question back in the past. Ergo, Shehaby and Sasson grappling is a “big improvement” in Arab States’ attitude in competing with Israelis. However, it should also be reported that Egypt has no prior history of backing out of a Judo bout with an Israeli in past Olympic games.
Ultimately, Islam El Shehaby reportedly retired as reported by Israeli news site Mako through The Wrap. Shehaby might have retired after the pressure he received from Egypt in which if he defeated Or Sasson, he would have made “Egypt happy.” However, Shehaby lost so he made “Egypt cry” and will now be “seen as a traitor and a normalizer in the eyes of the people.”
As for Or Sasson, he continued to climb the ranks in the 2016 Olympics ultimately winning a bronze medal for Israel.
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