Athletes Stand Up for Palestinian Rights as Western Sporting Bodies Choose Hypocrisy

As international sporting bodies enact swift sanctions against Russia over its illegal aggression against Ukraine, a growing number of athletes are choosing to make significant personal sacrifices by refusing to sportswash Israeli apartheid and denouncing the hypocrisy of selective action.

Palestinians welcome the courageous stands of international athletes and teams refusing to normalize Israeli apartheid and denouncing the hypocrisy of selective action by Western-dominated international sporting bodies in cases of grave human rights violations.

Sporting bodies governing football, tennis, swimming, judo, fencing, rugby, volleyball, athletics, basketball, cycling, rowing, boxing, gymnastics and others enacted swift sanctions against Russia over its illegal aggression against Ukraine merely weeks into its illegal invasion of Ukraine. Athletes using their platforms to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people have been cheered and celebrated by these bodies.

Yet, many of these same bodies, including FIFAUEFAUCIIronman, have not only ignored mounting calls to hold Israel to the same principles, but have also fined fan clubs and suspended athletes expressing solidarity with Palestinians and speaking out against Israel’s decades-old aggression and system of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.

Amnesty International is only the latest human rights organization to find Israel guilty of the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians. In its detailed report, Amnesty concludes that Israel has “introduced laws, policies and practices that systematically and cruelly discriminate against Palestinians” and calls on international bodies to comply with their duty to uphold international law.

As international sporting bodies fail to apply morally consistent standards in dealing with human rights violations, including by the U.S. and Nato, a growing number of athletes are choosing to make significant personal sacrifices by refusing to sportswash Israeli apartheid. Just since the beginning of this year, Kuwaitis Muhammad Al-Fadhli, Abdul-Razzaq Al-Baghli and Muhammad Al-Awadi, Jordanians Musa Al-Qutob, Muhammad Al-Saud, Mahmoud Al-Khatib, Ahmed Al-Borini, Muhammad Farhan and Ahmad Al-Battoush, Lebanese Aquilina Al-Shayeb and Algerian Ibrahim Sarkama, and the Iranian women’s hockey team have all refused to compete against apartheid Israel’s representatives.

Following his win at Wimbledon’s Optasia Championship, Egyptian squash champion Ali Faraj said it best:

“No one should accept any killings in the world, or oppression, but we’ve never been allowed to speak about politics in sports, but all of a sudden now it’s allowed. And now that it’s allowed I hope that people also look at oppression everywhere in the world. The Palestinians have been going through that for the past 74 years, but I guess because it doesn’t fit the narrative of the media of the West, we couldn’t talk about it. So now we can talk about Ukraine, we can talk about Palestine.”

Top league Spanish footballer Héctor Bellerín, also commented:

“It’s really tough to see how we are so consumed only by this war, but there are many others that we have ignored. I don't know if it's because they look more like us, or because this conflict could affect us more directly, economically or in terms of refugees. But the war on Palestinians has been completely silenced. No one is talking about it. Yemen. Iraq. Now Russia will be excluded from the World Cup, but in the end, other countries have been doing the same things for many years, and we turned a blind eye. I find it callous that only certain cases are given importance, with a certain narrative repeated by the press. To be honest, I find it very racist and very uncaring, because people are losing their lives in many conflicts.”

During Israel’s escalation of violence against Palestinians last May, active men and women athletes and entire teams courageously expressed solidarity with Palestinians living under the brutal oppression of Israeli apartheid in unprecedented numbers.

The world of sports is speaking up. It’s time for the international governing bodies to take morally consistent action.

We call on all international sporting bodies to end their hypocrisy and suspend apartheid Israel until it respects international law and Palestinian rights.

We further call for compensation for all Arab and international athletes, teams and fan clubs that have been penalized for speaking up for Palestinian rights in sports. 


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