As Israeli athletes Edan Blecher and Shelly Bobritsky took 4th place in the Olympic Trial event in Barcelona, Catalan TV commentator and bronze Olympic swimmer Clara Basiana denounced Israel's human rights violations against Palestinians. Basiana, who narrated the tournament for TV3, the state broadcaster of Catolonia, received both praise and backlash for her courage in calling out the Israeli occupation's crimes during the live transmission.
"Beyond the technical aspects, I'd like to point out that Israel's international presence in the field of sport and culture is another strategy for whitewashing of genocide and the violation of human rights that they are committing against the Palestinian people," Basiana said as the athletes' scores were announced.
The Spanish commentator went on to tell viewers to remain wary of attempts to normalise the occupation state through its presence in international sports and entertainment events.
"We have seen it here, at the Pre-Olympic Games in Barcelona, we have seen it repeatedly at Eurovision," Basiana observed. "It seems that during these events the war crimes of the Israeli state disappear. We have to be aware as spectators and make this situation visible so as not to normalise it."
On social media, Basiana's commentary was commended as a rare case of demanding accountability from Israel in the typically apolitical international sporting event.
— Doa'a Adel (@DoaaAlshiekh) June 20, 2021
Twitter users applauded Basiana's bravery in speaking up about injustices despite sporting commentator protocol, which usually excludes political criticism.
— Falastinee 🇵🇸 (@mdmon987) June 20, 2021
While other users expressed outrage at the commentator's boldness in mingling sports and politics.
@clarabasiana How dare you mix sports and politics ? How dare you propagate fake news about a supposed muslim genocide by Israel ? You have no authority as political commentator on TV ! Stick with water sports, it is what you are paid for !#Antisemitism
— David Bismuth (@csrdb) June 20, 2021
Many other users praised Basiana, recognising that she spoke up for Palestinians at the risk of damaging her career and becoming a target of pro-Israel social media trolls.
@clarabasiana such a role model and a great example for women who stand up and speak up the truth❤️Your statement might affect you and your career but You made an impact and lots of people are supportive and proud of you.This is Freedom of speech that countries call for 🙂
— Farah Mehyar (@FarahMehyar88) June 19, 2021
Basiana's comments came one month after the Israeli occupation's 11-day bombardment of Gaza, which killed at least 254 Palestinians, including 66 children.