JERUSALEM (JTA) — The head of the Judo Federation in the United Arab Emirates apologized after one of the country’s athletes refused to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent.
Meanwhile, three more Israelis won medals in the Grand Slam tournament in Abu Dhabi but were not able to celebrate with their country’s flag or national anthem during the award ceremonies.
International Judo Federation president Marius Vizer called the apology a “gesture of courage,” and said he thought the Israeli team had been treated “very well” and with “high respect” during the tournament, Times of Israel reported. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with the UAE.
In addition to Butbul’s bronze medal, Or Sasson won the bronze medal in the over 100 kilogram category and Peter Paltchik also won a bronze Saturday in the men’s under 100 kilograms category. Sasson had won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics. During that competition, an Egyptian judoka refused to shake his hand at the end of a match.
“As you can see I don’t have the flag,” Or Sasson told reporters Saturday after taking third place, referring to his uniform. “But my heart is always, always with the state of Israel. I hope I made you proud and I will always continue to represent you with pride.”
When Tal Flicker stood on the podium to receive his gold medal in the men’s under-145 pound category on Thursday, he sang the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah” as the international federation’s anthem was played. The same day, Gili Cohen won a bronze medal in the women’s under-114 pounds category.
On Wednesday, the International Judo Federation ordered the UAE to treat Israeli athletes equally during the tournament.