Creating new perspectives since 2009

Israel has nothing to do with Olympic spirit and must be banned: BDS Greece

May 24, 2024 at 3:33 pm

A general view of billboard that reads “Ban Israel from the Olympics” in Johannesburg on 22 April 2024 [PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images]

As Israel shows no signs of stopping its deadly war on Gaza, it is facing an increasingly powerful global movement of boycotts in various spheres – diplomatic, economic, academic and culture and sports, Anadolu Agency reports.

One of the growing calls now is for Israel to be banned from the upcoming Paris Olympics, with activists, representatives and athletes alike demanding its expulsion from the world’s biggest sporting event, now just two months away.

There is historical precedent for such a move, especially the expulsion of apartheid South Africa and the more recent ban on Russia over its war with Ukraine.

A key force in this push is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to bar Israel “until it ends its crimes against Palestinians and recognises our UN-stipulated rights.”

“We must ban Israel from the Olympics … It’s something we must do,” Marietta Simegiatou, head of the BDS Greece chapter, said in an interview with Anadolu.

WATCH: Major BDS victory for Irish students

“Athletes are asking for it, as is the general public. If a country is engaged in war, it must be excluded from the Olympics.”

She said the Olympics “have always been in the spirit of world peace, unity and respect for each other”.

“Those are the principles that run through the Olympics. Israel has nothing to do with these principles, so it must be banned,” she asserted.

“Israel must feel the pressure from the international community. It must feel that it’s very, very isolated.”

Simegiatou emphasised that excluding Israel from the Olympics is also part of wider efforts to isolate it for “a war of retaliation during which it violates international law and international humanitarian law”.

Israel is facing a genocide case at the International Court of Justice for assault on Gaza, where it has killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians in Gaza and injured at least 80,200 since last October.

Millions more are displaced in Gaza, facing famine and acute shortages of medical aid and other essentials.

“Given that most governments do nothing about it, for one reason or another, the responsibility falls upon us, the people, to react and act against this injustice,” said Simegiatou.

“The BDS calls for boycotting Israeli, as well as non-Israeli companies, which are complicit in the genocide happening now in Gaza. We are also pushing for sanctions to be implemented by governments.”

Divestment is a key focus for the BDS because it is a way to show Israel that its illegal, illegitimate and immoral actions have consequences, she said.

“The recent decision by Norway’s second largest asset manager, Storebrand, to divest holdings in IBM Corporation worth $141 million over its supply of a biometric database to Israel, which was used to implement apartheid and discrimination and segregation of Palestinians, proves we are on the “right path”, she asserted.

OPINION: How Gaza has changed the world and how to sustain the momentum it has created

‘We cannot just rely on institutions’

On the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor’s request for arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, Simegiatou said such “historical steps” are vital to ratchet up global pressure on Israel.

However, she pointed out that Israel has repeatedly shown that international law and institutions hold no importance for it, including binding UN Security Council resolutions.

“The ICC Prosecutor’s decision, of course, marks a historical point, but further action is needed by citizens and by the international community. We cannot just rely on institutions anymore because sometimes institutions are not so independent,” she said.

On the growing global pro-Palestine solidarity movement, Simegiatou lauded the efforts of students and common people around the world.

“We want the Palestinians to have more alliances and ties with progressive people and organisations. This is what it lacks. We have to internationalise the Palestinian struggle,” she said.

Regarding Greek public sentiment, she said increasingly close ties between Greece and Israel, particularly in the military sphere, have done little to change the sympathy that Greeks have for Palestinians.

“An overwhelming majority of Greeks support Palestine in the face of Israeli Occupation and have sympathies for their struggle for independence, as we’ve seen in the pro-Palestine rallies that brought together people for different segments of Greek society,” she added.

READ: McDonald’s says overseas sales to weaken more as boycotts continue