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Palestine-Global South solidarity group calls on IOC to ban Israel from Olympics

June 19, 2024 at 1:58 pm

Protestors, holding Palestinian flags, stage a demonstration demanding that Israel should be banned from the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in front of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland on 12 June, 2024 [Muhammet İkbal Arslan/Anadolu Agency]

A solidarity coalition of organisations and individuals from around the world have written to the President and Executive Board Members of the International Olympic Committee calling for Israel to be banned from this year’s Paris Olympic Games.

The Movement for Liberation from Nakba (MLN) has members from Australia, India, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Palestine, South Africa, South Korea and the United Kingdom. It aims to spread knowledge about Palestine across the Global South.

The “enormous power” of sporting boycotts must be used against Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza, the MLN told the IOC’s Thomas Bach and his colleagues. “Sport,” said the signatories of the open letter, “as well as sporting boycotts, have enormous power for the good of humanity. We believe that this power should be used to support the struggle of the people of Palestine.”

The letter pointed out that when Papwa Sewgolum was forced to stand in the rain outside the whites-only clubhouse to receive the winner’s trophy after the 1965 Natal Open golf tournament, millions of people around the world saw the ugly reality of life under apartheid. “When Nelson Mandela, in his prison cell on Robben Island heard that the 1981 rugby game between Waikato and the Springboks had been called off because anti-apartheid protestors had invaded the pitch, he said the prisoners were jubilant.”

South Africa, of course, was suspended and then expelled from the Olympic movement, in a demonstration of the positive power of sport and sports boycotts. “This intervention helped to bring a quicker end to apartheid in South Africa.”

Like apartheid South Africa, the signatories wrote, Israel uses its participation in international sport as a tool for normalising its systematic discrimination against Palestinians. “In response, Palestinians are making the same calls for boycotts as black South Africans did. Palestinian civil society groups are urging us to isolate Israel and hold it accountable for breaches of international law and crimes against humanity.”

Indeed, Israel has been described by major human rights groups B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as having passed the legal threshold for description as an apartheid state.

“The indiscriminate killing being conducted in Gaza, described by many as the first live-streamed genocide, is just the latest example of industrial-scale slaughter of Palestinians by Israel’s leaders.” Those killed, the letter noted, include the Palestinian Olympic football coach, Hani Al Masdar. In January this year, destroyed the office of the Palestinian Olympic Committee in Gaza.

“We note that the IOC Executive Board says that it is ‘politically neutral but is not apolitical’, and the world is aware of the steps it took to hold Russia to account after its invasion of Ukraine.” Last year, for example, the IOC banned official representation from Russia and Belarus at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Athletes from the two countries cannot compete under their countries’ flags, only as “Individual Neutral Athletes” provided they do not “actively support the war” and are not “contracted” to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies.

“We are asking the board to hold Israel to account using the same steps that it has taken in the case of Russia and Belarus. It is unconscionable for Israel to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics given what humanity has witnessed these past eight months. We believe Israel should be suspended from international sports organisations and international sporting events until it ends its grave violations of international law, particularly its apartheid rule and the genocidal policies/actions it is perpetrating in Gaza.”

The signatories concluded by pointing out that all lives, no matter the nationality, ethnicity or religion, deserve the same consideration from the Olympic movement.

The letter was signed in solidarity, justice and peace by:

Chandra Muzaffar

Hassanal Noor Rashid

Amjad Alqasis

Professor Joseph Camilleri

Professor Junaid Ahmad

Lisa Pires

Lana Latour

Lubnah Shomali

Na’eem Jeenah

Nasser Ibrahim

Ranjan Solomon

Nida Arif

Rifat Kassis

Professor Shad Faruqi

Nor Hakim Ismail

Professor Ilan Pappe

Steve Liddle

John Minto

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