UAE officials apologise to Israel over handshake snub at judo tournament

Left to right: Israeli judo chief Moshe Ponte, IJC head Marius Vizer, and two Emirates sports officials.

The head of the United Arab Emirates’ Judo Federation has apologised to Israel after one of their athletes refused to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent.

Mohammad bin Thaloub Al-Darei, president of the UAE’s Judo Federation, and Aref Al-Awani, a senior UAE sports official, have apologised after Rashad Almashjari refused to shake the hand of Israeli judoka, Tohar Butbul, at a judo tournament.

In a move branded “historic” by the International Judo Federation (IJF), Israel Judo Association’s President Moshe Ponte met with Mohammad bin Thaloub Al-Darei.

Ponte and Al-Darei “shared greetings and positive discussion,” according to the IJF, with UAE judo general secretary Naser Al-Tameemi also in attendance.

IJF President Marius Vizer said: “This was a gesture of courage, humanity and respect for the sport.”

The Israeli judoka won a gold medal at a competition in Abu Dhabi last Thursday but did not compete under his country’s flag nor was the national anthem played during the awards ceremony.

Tal Flicker won gold in the men’s under 66 kilogram competition at the Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi 2017.

As with every year, the UAE banned Israeli athletes from wearing the country’s symbols on their uniforms and Flicker received his medal under the International Judo Federation (IJF) banner instead of the Israeli flag.

Despite the “controversial” move by the Emirati athlete, the UAE and Israel still enjoy secret relations in spite of Almashjari’s principled decision.

In June, leaked emails of the UAE’s ambassador to the US revealed that Abu Dhabi had established clandestine relations with Israel.

The emails showed a “growing link” between the UAE and pro-Israel think-tank, Foundation for Defence of Democracies.

Both UAE and Saudi Arabia enjoy a profound cooperation with Israel as Israeli officials have been recently suggesting.

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