The Olympics are a fascinating look at global relationships. Countries from all over the world come together to compete professionally. Countries could have warring history, or even currently be at war, and still have athletes swimming next to one another trying their best to properly represent their country. Or so the media likes to portray. As wonderful as this lofty idea seems, how can one simply stand by and act as if nothing is happening just because they aren’t seeing it in the pleasant lights of the Olympic games? They can’t and shouldn’t.
With the conclusion of the Olympic games just a couple of days ago, we can now take a moment to reflect not only on the general atmosphere of the games but also on the clear support for Palestine shown by the athletes. Egyptian Islam El Shehaby was sent from from the Olympics after refusing to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent. Not only was this action disrespectful to the completely legal choice of El Shehaby, but also demonstrated a lack of understanding of the political context. In fact, we should be praising his refusal to shake the Israeli athlete’s hand. In today’s world of activism, we should all be overjoyed that someone took a nonviolent, highly effective step in the right direction. The Israeli apartheid regime should NOT be treated like every other country. El Shehaby, a non-Palestinian, showed the world that doing the right thing is worth the consequences.
Though it was blasted all over the media, here are a couple articles with strong, articulate points:
- This Al-Jazeera editorial perfectly sums up what we are all thinking, feeling and frustrated about. “I can understand the desire for sportsmanship and, as a lover of sport myself, I appreciate the ways in which it, as a human language, can transcend divides. What I cannot understand and cannot accept, however, is when there is outrage over simple acts of protest without outrage, or even discussion, in those same conversations about the reasons behind those protests – the mass denial of basic human rights to millions of Palestinians.”
- This article from Mondoweiss explains more in depth what took place at this past Olympics, while also describing the true absurdity of the negative reactions, and how meaningful this small act of protest truly was. “The actions of these athletes are in keeping with the Palestinian call for global solidarity in the form of BDS, including the sports boycott of Israel. A sports boycott is an individual gesture with the greater immediate negative consequences suffered by the person engaging in it, as they will likely be disqualified from further competition. Yet the Arab athletes who refused to normalize with the Israelis have been criticized as violating “etiquette” and “the Olympic spirit.””
What are your thoughts? How do the Olympics represent world opinions and values? Can they?