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PA honors Algerian athlete for refusing to compete against Israeli in 2020 Olympics

Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |
  • Algerian judoka: “We are prepared to sacrifice our souls… victory will return to our brothers in Palestine” 

While the International Judo Federation harshly punished the Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine who refused to compete against an Israeli at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and banned him and his coach from the Federation’s activities and competitions for 10 years, the Palestinian Authority is excited and see it as cause for celebration.

The Palestinian embassy in Algiers already honored Nourine’s sacrifice of his sporting career with “a special expression of appreciation for… supporting the Palestinian people’s cause” at an event last month. And now it seems that “a large ceremony to honor” Nourine is being planned to take place there, jointly organized by the Palestinian Judo Federation:

“Palestinian Judo Federation Chairman and Secretary-General of the National Committee Against Normalization in Sports Jihad Uweida spoke by phone with Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine… [and] emphasized that the Palestinian Judo Federation will make contact with the Palestinian embassy in Algeria to organize a large ceremony to honor Algerian judo champion Fethi Nourine, and that this is the least that we can do for him.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30, 2021]

Interviewed for official PA TV, Nourine announced himself and others ready to “sacrifice our souls” for “Palestine”:

We are prepared to sacrifice our souls for the sake of our position and our word. We would never take a step backwards. As long as we are alive, we are for the sake of the cause at every opportunity, and Allah willing He will make our path succeed, and I hope that because of us and because of the people who are loyal, victory will return to our brothers in Palestine.”

[Official PA TV News, Nov. 19, 2021]

In his conversation with Uweida, Nourine further explained that Algerians learn to support “Palestine and Jerusalem” from childhood:

“This position is our duty towards Palestine, [which] is considered our cause, as we stand alongside Palestine and Jerusalem. This is part of our faith, what we were taught, and what we imbibed with our mothers’ milk.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30, 2021]

Palestinian Media Watch reported in the summer that true to his policy of “no normalization with Israel in sports,” senior PA official Jibril Rajoub, who is Chairman of the Palestine Olympic Committee and Fatah Central Committee Secretary, cheered the judoka for his refusal to compete against Israel, and even traveled to meet with him and “honor his heroic position opposing normalization [with Israel].”

In response, PMW submitted a complaint to the International Olympic Committee over Rajoub and is waiting for the Olympic Committee’s response.

The PA uses the term "normalization" to refer to any joint activity, project, or program between Israelis and Palestinians. The PA frequently rejects "normalization" with Israel, whether in business, academia, sports, at cultural events, at conferences, etc.

Rajoub has defined "normalization" as follows:

"I understand by normalization that the relationship between me and you will be normal, that we'll play [sports] together and there'll be a joint program. I say to you: Under no circumstances will there be normalization."

[Official PA TV, May 17, 2012]

The following are longer excerpts of the statements cited above:

“Palestinian Judo Federation Chairman and Secretary-General of the National Committee Against Normalization in Sports Jihad Uweida spoke by phone with Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine. Nourine avoided competing against an Israeli judoka in the [2020] Tokyo Olympics and was banned from participating in international competitions for 10 years.

During the conversation, [Uweida] praised Algerian judoka Nourine’s position…

Nourine said that he appreciated the conversation and emphasized: ‘This position is our duty towards Palestine, [which] is considered our cause, as we stand alongside Palestine and Jerusalem. This is part of our faith, what we were taught, and what we imbibed with our mothers’ milk.’

Uweida emphasized that the Palestinian Judo Federation will make contact with the Palestinian embassy in Algeria to organize a large ceremony to honor Algerian judo champion Fethi Nourine, and that this is the least that we can do for him.”

[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30, 2021]

Official PA TV reporter: “Celebrations of the 33rd anniversary of the State of Palestine’s declaration of independence (see note below -Ed.) received a different nature here in Algiers. The State of Palestine’s embassy decided that it would include a special expression of appreciation for those supporting the Palestinian people’s cause, for the two Algerian judo champions Fethi Nourine and [his coach] Amar Benikhlef who sacrificed their sporting future for the sake of the Palestinian cause (refers to Nourine’s and Benikhlef’s 10-year suspension from IJF activities and competitions after they refused to compete against an Israeli in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics -Ed.).”

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine: “We are prepared to sacrifice our souls for the sake of our position and our word. We would never take a step backwards. As long as we are alive, we are for the sake of the cause at every opportunity, and Allah willing He will make our path succeed, and I hope that because of us and because of the people who are loyal, victory will return to our brothers in Palestine.”

Algerian Judo coach Amar Benikhlef: “We don’t regret, even if the punishment will continue forever. We support Palestine, whether justice is on its side or not, and that is a tenet of faith. If the punishment is not cancelled it will apply to us, and we made our decision out of faith in its justice.”

[Official PA TV News, Nov. 19, 2021]

Palestinian declaration of independence - On Nov. 15, 1988, before the Palestine National Council (PNC), the Palestinian parliament in exile in Algeria, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat declared the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Although the borders were not specified in the declaration, it recognized the UN partition plan of 1947, which called for the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in the former British Mandate for Palestine.