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Jewish World Review
August 23, 2004
/ 6 Elul, 5764
Boot U.S. apologist for Iran's bigotry
There should be no double standards, especially given Olympic history
Imagine the following Olympic scenario: A white American Olympic wrestler draws as his first opponent a black wrestler from an African country. Rather than touch a black man, the American wrestler forfeits the match. When the head of the American wrestling team is asked for his reaction, he says, "That's his choice, and I have to say that, frankly, I respect it."
The outcry would be instantaneous. The American wrestler would be permanently banned from Olympic competition and the U.S. would be condemned for having selected so bigoted a representative. The head of the team, who commended the wrestler, would be immediately replaced.
This is not quite what happened during the first days of the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but it's awfully close. An Iranian judo athlete drew as his first competitor a Jewish wrestler from Israel. Rather than compete against this son of a monkey and an ape, as Iranian mullahs repeatedly refer to Jews, Arash Miresmaeili avoided the competition. His teammate Haji Akhondzade claimed in public "Israel [is] no country," suggesting that the entire nation of Israel is really Palestine.
The Israeli opponent, Ehud Vaks, who knows Miresmaeili, said the decision to withdraw was not made by the wrestler himself, but rather by the Iranian government. This seems likely, especially since Iran publicly urged its other Olympians not to compete against Israelis. Had the Iranian wrestler drawn an Israeli Muslim as an opponent, I have no doubt that he would have wrestled him, despite the Iranian statement that this was a boycott of all Israelis.
This is to be expected from Iran, known for its anti-Jewish bigotry and for ordering its athletes to refuse to compete against Israelis in other international events.
The shock is that this bigoted decision has been praised by the leader of the U.S. judo team, an American named Buck Wessel. Wessel actually said that he respected Miresmaeili's decision, and he compared it to the American decision to pull out of the Olympic Games in 1980 to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Wessel should immediately be relieved of his responsibility as an American team leader. He does not speak for Americans in supporting the Iranian bigotry.
This particular act of Olympic bigotry took place in the shadow of the 1972 mass murder of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches. That massacre was approved in advance by Yasser Arafat, who boasted of it to Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. The group that actually carried out the killings was supported by the Iranian government, which continues to be the No. 1 supporter of worldwide terrorism.
If Israel is not a country, and if athletes from Israel are not acceptable competitors, then this is only a short step from advocating physical attacks against them. In 1972, after the murder of the Israeli Olympians, business went on as usual with barely a pause for a memorial. This time, there must be a powerful response to the Iranian bigotry and its acceptance by the head of the American team.
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Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz's most recent book is "The Case for Israel." (To purchase, click HERE. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.
© 2004, Alan Dershowitz