Israeli judoka allowed to wear country's name in Morocco

Or Sasson allowed to wear Israel’s insignia at Openweight World Championships in Marrakech, after discrimination in UAE.

Elad Benari,

Or Sasson
Or Sasson

Israeli judoka Or Sasson was allowed to wear Israel’s insignia at the Openweight World Championships in Marrakech, Morocco, JTA reported on Sunday.

Sasson, who won a bronze medal for Israel in the 2016 Rio Olympics, was eliminated from the tournament Saturday by a loss to France’s Cyrille Maret. However, his appearance with “ISR” on his uniform was still a victory of sorts for Israel’s judo team, which was barred from displaying national symbols last month in a tournament in Abu Dhabi.

Morocco, a predominantly Muslim nation, had threatened not to grant visas to the Israeli team in the days ahead of the tournament. International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer intervened, and the Israeli athletes arrived Thursday in Marrakech, noted JTA.

Last month, Israeli judokas took five medals, one gold and four bronze, at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi.

Israeli judoka Tal Flicker took home the gold medal in the 66 kilogram division, while Gili Cohen won the bronze medal in the women's 52 kilogram division. Israeli judoka Tohar Butbul defeated Italian Olympic champion Fabio Basile and won a bronze medal. Sasson won the bronze medal in the over 100 kilogram category, while Peter Paltchik won a bronze in the men’s under 100 kilograms category.

But the United Arab Emirates, which does not recognize Israel as a state, did not allow the athletes to display their national symbols. At the end of two matches, athletes from Morocco and the United Arab Emirates refused the outstretched hands of the Israelis who defeated them.

The head of the Judo Federation in the United Arab Emirates later apologized for the local athletes refusal to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent.

Subsequent reports indicated that starting next year, Israeli athletes participating in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament will no longer be discriminated against and will be permitted to compete with an Israeli flag and Israeli national symbols.