Egyptian Olympian Refuses to Shake Israeli Competitor’s Hand

Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby, blue, declines to shake hands with Israel’s Or Sasson, white, after losing during the men’s over 100-kg judo competition at the Olympics / AP
• August 12, 2016 3:39 pm


An Egyptian Olympic judo athlete refused to shake his Israeli competitor’s hand on Friday after losing the competition.

Islam El Shelby of Egypt, who the Associated Press described as an ultraconservative Salafi, had just been defeated by Or Sasson of Israel when the competitors stood across from one another in front of the referee. Sasson walked over to El Shelby and extended his hand, and the Egyptian backed away shaking his head.

El Shelby was called back to the mat by the referee, who forced him to bow to Sasson. Bowing to opponents is a key part of judo competition. El Shelby’s conduct received boos from the crowd in Rio de Janeiro as he walked off the mat.

El Shelby had been pressured back in Egypt not to compete against an Israeli at all. The International Judo Federation saw it differently, according to the AP.

The International Judo Federation called it a sign of progress that the fight even took place between the two athletes.

"This is already a big improvement that Arabic countries accept to [fight] Israel," spokesman Nicolas Messner said in an email. The competitors were under no obligation to shake hands, but a bow is mandatory, he added.

Messner said that even though El Shehaby ultimately bowed, "his attitude will be reviewed after the games to see if any further action should be taken." He said the ethics commission of judo’s governing body would review the incident after the Olympics.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident "shocking," writing on Twitter it "goes against the spirit of Rio 2016" and that "sports are not the field for politics and extremism."

Video of the incident:

Published under: Egypt, Israel, Sports