Rio Olympics 2016: Egyptian judoka refuses to shake hands with Israeli opponent

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Egypt's Islam El Shehaby, blue, declines to shake hands with Israel's Or Sasson, white, after losing during the men's over 100-kg judo competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby, blue, declines to shake hands with Israel’s Or Sasson, white, after losing during the men’s over 100-kg judo competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Middle Eastern politics spilled onto the judo mat Friday at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics when Islam El Shehaby of Egypt refused to shake hands with his winning opponent, Or Sasson of Israel.

El Shehaby, an ultraconservative Salafi, had come under pressure before the games from Islamist-leaning and nationalist voices in Egypt to withdraw from the first-round heavyweight bout against the Israeli.

With about a minute and a half left in the bout, Sasson earned an automatic victory with two throws of El Shehaby.

The Egyptian lay flat on his back for a moment before rising and standing opposite Sasson in front of the referee. When Sasson extended his hand, El Shehaby backed away, shaking his head.

The referee called El Shehaby back to the mat and obliged to him to bow; El Shehaby gave a quick nod, and he was loudly booed as he exited.

Competitors typically bow or shake hands at the beginning and end of a match as a sign of respect in the Japanese martial art.

El Shehaby refused to comment, as did Sasson. The Israeli lost his semifinal match to top-ranked Teddy Riner of France but still has the chance to fight for a bronze medal later on Friday.

Asked about El Shehaby’s actions, Israeli team press attaché Brurya Bigman said: “This is his problem. It’s not our problem.”

She said she hadn’t spoken to Sasson about it and didn’t know how it had affected him.

“If you ask me, it’s a psychological thing,” she said.

Ofir Gendelman, Arabic language spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the incident “shocking.” In a Twitter post, he said it “goes against the spirit of Rio 2016,” writing in Arabic said that “sports are not the field for politics and extremism.”

The International Judo Federation called it a sign a progress that the fight even took place between the two athletes.

“This is already a big improvement that Arabic countries accept to (fight) Israel,” spokesman Nicolas Messner said in an email. The competitors were under no obligation to shake hands, but a bow is mandatory, he added.

Messner said that even though El Shehaby ultimately bowed, “his attitude will be reviewed after the games to see if any further action should be taken.” He said the ethics commission of judo’s governing body would review the incident after the Olympics.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said he hadn’t heard all the details but that the International Olympic Committee also would look into it.

“Things happen in the heat of the moment that are not acceptable,” Adams said. “We believe the Olympic movement should be about building bridges, not erecting walls. There’s absolutely no excuse for it.”

He acknowledged that sometimes athletes can’t bring themselves to shake hands with their competitors.

“It’s a shame if that happens,” Adams said.

Egypt’s Olympic Committee distanced itself from what El Shehaby did, saying the Egyptian was “alerted before the match to abide by all the rules and to have sporting spirt during his match with the Israeli player.”

“What the player did after the match, and not shaking hands with his rival, is a personal action,” the committee said in a statement.

Similar scuffles have happened before between Israeli and Arab judo athletes. At the quarter-finals of the 2011 judo Grand Slam in Moscow, Egyptian Ramadan Darwish refused to shake hands with Israeli Arik Zeevi. The next year, Darwish again declined to shake hands with Zeevi after beating the Israeli in their quarterfinal match at a tournament in Dusseldorf.

On Thursday, Moutaz Matar, a TV host of the Islamist-leaning network Al-Sharq, had urged El Shehaby to withdraw.

“My son, watch out. Don’t be fooled, or fool yourself, thinking you will play with the Israeli athlete to defeat him and make Egypt happy,” he said. “Egypt will cry; Egypt will be sad and you will be seen as a traitor and a normalizer in the eyes of your people.”

Egyptians clearly were divided before the match over whether El Shehaby should compete or withdraw, and there was a mixed reaction on social media afterward. Many blamed him for embarrassing the country, although some felt sympathy for El Shehaby, saying he was put under a lot of pressure.

In a Facebook post, journalist Galal Nassar said: “As long as you agreed to play an Israeli champion in the Olympics, you should have exchanged the greeting.”

He wrote that El Shehaby’s move backfired, and the Israeli player ended up with more sympathy. “We have lost in terms of sports and politics,” Nassar said.

Egypt was the first country in the Arab world to sign a peace treaty and normalize relations with Israel after decades of war.

© 2016 The Associated Press

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46 responses to “Rio Olympics 2016: Egyptian judoka refuses to shake hands with Israeli opponent”

  1. I really respected him for ignoring the calls not to compete,c called him a brave man. he lost it all when he could not bring himself to shake the hand of the man that defeted him.
    Crowd booing him all the way out was his just reward.
    Nothing but a sour looser..(and to think his sallafi friends denounce him as well…now that’s hilarious:))

  2. Oh Yeah Avatar

    Middle Eastern politics spilled once more onto the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
    A disgraceful waste of money that the Brazilians need for welfare.

    A demonstration against the Olympic Games near the Maracana Stadium.

    1. Hind Abyad Avatar
      Hind Abyad

      OhYah
      “Middle Eastern politics spilled once more onto the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
      A disgraceful waste of money that the Brazilians need for welfare.”

      Explain what you mean by “once more”?
      Explain what Middle East politics have to do with “a disgrace full waste of money that Brazilians need for welfare”?

  3. 5thDrawer Avatar
    5thDrawer

    Bowing is tradition … it’s enough. Who wants to change Traditions, after all?

    1. Would you react this way if a white refused to shake a black man’s hand?
      A christian refusing to shake a muslim’s hand?
      An Israeli refusing to shake an Arab’s hand?

      Lame comment 5th..

      1. 5thDrawer Avatar
        5thDrawer

        Not ‘reacting’ at all, except to state a fact or two about a Japanese Martial Art.

        1. It is customer for sportsman to shake hands after match.i ts a custom been around for ever and common in all sports.
          Shaking hands is not restricted to Judo alone .
          shaking hands is not a Japanese martial art thingi but a wider sign of respect in sport,a sign of respect that the arab could not bring himself to have even though he was defeated in a fair fight…sour looser and nothing more.

          1. Oh Yeah Avatar

            We shake hands as a sign of friendship since ca 300 BC….

            Atlantic City, New Jersey Mayor Joseph Lazarow was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for a July 1977 publicity stunt, in which the mayor shook more than 11,000 hands in a single day, breaking the record previously held by President Theodore Roosevelt, who had set the record with 8,510 handshakes at a White House reception on 1 January 1907.

            Funerary stele of Thrasea and Euandria. Marble, ca. 375-350 BC.
            Antikensammlung Berlin, Pergamon Museum,

          2. 5thDrawer Avatar
            5thDrawer

            Apparently it didn’t catch on in Japan Traditions … Top guys had a hand on a sword … the ‘Empty Hands’ people kept an eye on that sword, and bowed. 😉
            Don’t stick your germ-filled hand out to a Monarch either. 😉

          3. Oh Yeah Avatar

            You forgot to tell us about the hongi, it is a traditional Māori greeting in New Zealand. It is done by pressing one’s nose and forehead (at the same time) to another person at an encounter.

            Furthermore the traditional Inuit greeting called a kunik.

            You sound like Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. with his germphobia….

          4. 5thDrawer Avatar
            5thDrawer

            :-))) … But this is Japanese.

          5. Oh Yeah Avatar

            You have the Inuit greeting (kunik) at your doorstep, why you choose Japanese on the other side of the ocean….

            Don’t they have any handsprit at the hygiene facilities at your shopping center?
            Don’t you use in Canada handsprit or disinfectant wipes….

          6. 5thDrawer Avatar
            5thDrawer

            I would go nose-to-nose with some Japanese women I’ve met. 😉
            I keep wipes in the car. :-)))

          7. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            Oh Yeah want’s to win Google Award….;-)

          8. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            Because it’s not Maori, New Zealand, Inuit (kunic) Canadian..
            It’s Japanese!

          9. Oh Yeah Avatar

            How come that Canadians aren’t familiar with the nature of population, its after all not in the other side of the ocean?

          10. Rudy1947 Avatar

            Perhaps Hind just found out where New Zealand is located and just wanted to share 😉

          11. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            Perhaps you’re stupid?
            Canada is the second largest country in the World after Russia,
            from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
            11,857 km from New Zealand to British Columbia
            14606.41 km from New Zealand to Québéc
            vice versa.

          12. Rudy1947 Avatar

            And now your sharing mileage, how nice. Planning a swim?

          13. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            Yalibnan is not a stand-up comedy clinic.

          14. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            So what. Judoka was invented by Japanese, the rets is; irrelevant comments who insist ..like you;-o.

          15. 5thDrawer Avatar
            5thDrawer

            Somebody added an ‘s’ to Inuit … weird English … Is it a Russian Map?
            Nice to see they decided to move furthur from Russia, however, after the Ice-Melting Projects began.

          16. Rudy1947 Avatar

            The makers of the map ought to flogged for that “s”.

          17. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            Your IQ should be flogged

          18. A clinical retard talking about somebody else’s IQ. How ironic. And borderline cute. 🙂

          19. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            A new comment was posted on Ya Libnan News
            Visit Y K’s profile

            Y K
            A clinical retard talking about somebody else’s IQ. How ironic. And borderline cute. 🙂
            2:29 p.m., Sunday Aug. 14 | Other comments by Y K

          20. 5thDrawer Avatar
            5thDrawer

            Don’t even check the scale … Maybe Alaska is a little fat because NATO stops them from flying past it. :-))))

          21. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            So what. Judoka was invented by Japanese; irrelevant comments who insist ..like you;-o.

          22. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            What’s the significance please?
            Russia goes from Europe to Asia as Turkey from Europe to Asia.
            Stop spamming filling pages FOR NOTHING.

          23. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            Ha hah..!

          24. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            Ha hah..!

          25. Hind Abyad Avatar
            Hind Abyad

            Saudi princess might be expelled from Rio Olympics

            https://www.almasdarnews.com/a.

          26. 5thDrawer Avatar
            5thDrawer

            Well, there’s sour losers everywhere. Some keep coming back to get beaten again.;-)

          27. I doubt this one will.

    2. Oh Yeah Avatar

      Did you teched her, or she just tries to show how smart she is in finding information on the internet……

      1. 5thDrawer Avatar
        5thDrawer

        Everyone here, it seems, either has a lot of weird questions, or opinions rarely based on a fact. If I supply a fact, some may look into it, and some not. I’d never want to be a teacher … some school-board would want me to revise the old notes. ;-)))

        1. Hind Abyad Avatar
          Hind Abyad

          For Gods Sake! I am an ardent admirer of Japanese Culture i have a
          collection of Samurai Tsubas and Japanese Art books, i Japan perfection is a duty.. who doesn’t know Judo is Japanese, never seen such ignorant illiterate peasants typing here, stupid questions, stupid answers, stupid comments, puppies chasing around their tails.
          Why the hell bother participate ???? You enjoy..no more for me, it’s demeaning.

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar
          5thDrawer

          Well, a lesser Scotch can be a spirit for the hands … I suppose. 😉
          I can’t mark ALL the errors … and once there’s more than 3 ‘majors’, no respectable school would pass a composition anyway. :-))

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