June 28th, 2022


A hatemonger at the Olympics

Jeff Jacoby

By Jeff Jacoby

Published August 4, 2021

A hatemonger at the Olympics
As the Olympics got underway 10 days ago, a senior Palestinian official campaigned publicly for participants in the Tokyo games to boycott Israel and forfeit matches against Israeli athletes.

Jibril Rajoub, who for many years was a close confidant of Yasser Arafat and the ruthless security chief of Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization, praised and posed for pictures with the Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine , who withdrew from the judo competition when he learned he would face an Israeli competitor if both advanced to the second round. The International Judo Federation suspended Nourine and his coach, and excoriated them for behaving "in total opposition to the . . . values of judo." But Rajoub, in keeping with his lifelong hatred of Israel, sang the Algerian's praises.

Rajoub's open contempt for the spirit of the Olympic Charter — which calls for sports to be used in "promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity" — isn't very surprising. His whole career, after all, has been aimed at the demonization of Israel and the liquidation of the Jewish state. There is just one problem. Rajoub is not only the secretary-general of Fatah, he is also chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee. So when he seethes that any "normalization in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime against humanity" (as he said in 2014) he is exploiting his position within the Olympic movement to glorify violence and undermine international brotherhood.

Such behavior isn't only hateful and immoral. It's also an egregious violation of International Olympic Committee rules.

The IOC's detailed Code of Ethics requires Olympic personnel to respect at all times the movement's principle of "universality and political neutrality" and to affirm "the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play." Rajoub has for years brazenly flouted those requirements, invoking his status as chairman of a national Olympic committee while debasing Olympic ideals.

In the runup to the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, researchers at Palestinian Media Watch documented multiple examples of Rajoub's praise for terrorism and incitement to murder. The report showed that Rajoub did more than glorify Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen — he did so explicitly in his capacity as an Olympic official. For example:

In November 2015, Rajoub named a tournament in honor of Muhammad Halabi, who had murdered two civilians and wounded two others in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem a month earlier. A poster advertising the tournament featured two images of Halabi; in large lettering it trumpeted the "patronage of the leader Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestine Olympic Committee."

A 2013 women's table tennis competition was organized in honor of Dalal Mughrabi, a PLO terrorist who planned the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, which resulted in the death of 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children. According to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, the Palestinian Authority newspaper, Rajoub conveyed his greetings to participants in the tournament's closing ceremony, at which "he mentioned the glorious deeds of hero Martyr Dalal Mughrabi and noted that the Table Tennis Association acts in accordance with the Olympic Committee's agenda."

In 2010, Rajoub attended a boxing match named in honor of Ali Hassan Salameh, one of the masterminds of Black September, the Fatah terror subgroup that slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

For Rajoub, the Palestinian Olympic Committee exists first and foremost as a vehicle for delegitimizing and ostracizing Israel. In 2018, he mounted a campaign of incitement against the Argentinean soccer star Lionel Messi, calling on fans to burn pictures and jerseys of Messi if he took part in a friendly exhibition match against Israel in Jerusalem. So intense was the threat of violence against Messi that Argentina canceled the game.

Rajoub's unsleeping hostility is not restricted to professional adult athletes. When the Peres Center for Peace hosted a soccer match between Palestinian and Israeli kids in 2014, the children enjoyed themselves immensely — "I love it when we play together like this," 11-year-old Qusay, a Palestinian boy, told an AFP reporter. But Rajoub was furious. It was "a disgrace to use sports for this purpose," he thundered , and issued a "demand that all individuals and institutions distance themselves from such activities."

Like most ideals, the Olympic mission — the promotion of peace and dignity through sport — is an aspiration not yet achieved. The Olympic Games do not resolve international conflicts. The Olympic charter hasn't deterred tyrants from abusing human rights. Nothing the International Olympic Committee does or doesn't do will establish peace in the Middle East.

But surely Palestinian athletes deserve a better leader than Rajoub, a man so steeped in hatred that he applauds terror attacks and denounces games that bring Arab and Jewish kids together. At the opening ceremonies in Tokyo in July, the Olympic Hymn was sung: "Let all the flags of every land/in brotherhood unfold ."

No one expects the IOC to produce universal brotherhood. But couldn't it at least insist on a decent chairman for the Palestine Olympic Committee?