Lebanese Martial Artist Refuses to Compete Against Israeli Opponent

Photo Credit: Sports 961 / Lebanese Martial Artist Youssef Abboud Refused to Compete Against Israeli Opponent

Last month, a Lebanese martial artist gave up the chance to win gold against an Israeli opponent. His actions have since received considerable attention on social media.

23-year-old mixed martial artist, Youssef Abboud, refused to compete against an Israeli opponent in the final of the Muay Boran championship held in the Thai capital of Bangkok on March 21st.  

Abboud, a Thai Boxing specialist, gave up the chance of winning the gold medal by boycotting his final fight against an Israeli opponent under the guise of “refusing to normalize relations” with his Israeli opponent. Abboud also refused to receive his silver medal on the podium because he did not want the Israeli flag to be raised next to the Lebanese flag.

While the Lebanese fighter’s stance drew wide support from Arabic communities on Social Media, he has also received rightful criticism from Israel and the west. Boycotting Israel in sports is part of the BDS movement. In recent years, numerous Arab and Muslim opponents have chosen to take their politics into the arena and not compete against Israelis in international competitions such as the Olympics.

Photo Credit: Times of Israel / Egyptian Opponent Refused to Shake Hands with Or Sasson at Rio Olympics

In 2016, an Egyptian Judoka was sent home from the Rio Olympics in 2016 for refusing to shake Or Sassoon’s after losing a bout to the Israeli. Similarly, two weeks ago Tunisian authorities banned Israel’s Taekwondo team from the World Junior Championships in Tunisia, a particularly cruel gesture considering most of the participants were under 18. There have also been many other instances of countries boycotting matches with Israel in recent years.

Sports should be used as a platform to connect people of different races, views, and backgrounds not a forum for exclusion. While the politics of everyday life aren’t completely erased in athletics, sports are an opportunity to build bridges and mend gaps between people.