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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

QAYON calls out Qatar Gymnastics Federation for hosting Israeli athletes

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The Qatar-based pro-Palestine group shed light on gestures of normalisation with Israel through sports. 

Pro-Palestine group Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalisation (QAYON) has called out the Qatar Gymnastics Federation (QGF) for hosting Israeli athletes.

“QGF will host the 3 players representing the Zionist entity in the World Gymnastics Championships at the Aspire Dome in Doha from Saturday 23-26 June 2021,” tweeted the pro-Palestine group.

One of the athletes, Artem Dolgopyat, also serves as a sergeant in the Israeli military at a base in occupied Palestine.

“Despite the series of displacements and violations by the occupying entity [Israel] of our [Palestinian] brothers and sisters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, Silwan neighbourhood, and recently the village of Beita, as well as the bombing of Gaza, the federation will host athlete and soldier Artem Dolgopyat, who serves as a sergeant at Tel Hashomer base in occupied Palestine,” tweeted QAYON.

Normalisation in sports

In a thread on Twitter, QAYON shed light on gestures of normalisation through sports events, noting that this was not the first time Israeli athletes have been hosted at Qatar sporting events.

Team Israel was also present at the World Gymnastics Championships in 2018. In 2019, an Israeli gymnast even went at far as winning the Gold medal in Doha.

The Israeli team also competed in this year’s Judo World Championship, with some of its athletes having also previously served in the IOF.

Among the judokas were 13 Israelis, one of whom – Sagi Muki – was a former sergeant in the Israeli army. Judoka Peter Paltchik, another Israeli athlete that was present at the tournament, previously served in the occupation’s air force.

“The presence of players from the Zionist entity in our sporting events and in our country only serves to cement the occupation, and its ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people since the Nakba,” QAYON said in a twitter thread at the time.

QAYON has also made efforts to promote boycotts against companies that are complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

Read also: QAYON launches boycott campaign against security giant G4S for complicity in Israeli crimes

Qatar Sports Club recently announced it has no plans to renew its contract with global sportswear manufacturer Puma amid local and international calls for boycott due to its compliance with the Israeli occupation.

“We would like to inform you that Qatar Sports Club’s contract with Puma expired at the end of the 2020/2021 sports season, and the club doesn’t plan on renewing it for the next season,” said the local sports club in a direct message on Instagram to Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalisation [QAYON], a local independent pro-Palestine youth body.

The response came following QAYON’s calls for boycotting Puma, urging football fans to apply pressure on their local clubs due to its involvement with Israel. The youth group took action against the global sportswear manufacturer following the deadly attacks on Gaza, in which Israel killed 255 Palestinians, including 66 children.

Qatar Sports Club was among seven local clubs that were contacted by QAYON to explain the extent to which Puma is complicit in Israel’s human rights violations.

The move call for boycott Israeli athletes is similar to the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa and encounters between Arabs and Israelis in sports often cause controversy.

Acts of boycott against Israeli teams across the Arab world are largely seen as a symbolic act of resistance against normalising with Israel due to its illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine.

However, these boycotts are usually met with opposition from organising committees due to a Universal Declaration of Players Rights rule that stipulates all athletes are entitled to equality of opportunity in the pursuit of sport without distinction of any kind and free of discrimination.


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