Egypt Criticizes Local Judoka Who Refused to Shake Hands With Israeli Opponent

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has criticized an Egyptian judoka, Mohamed Abdelaal, for refusing to shake the hand of his Israeli opponent, Sagi Muki, who defeated the Egyptian in the semifinals of the World Judo Championships. The Israeli went on to win the championship last week.

Despite Muki’s historic gold medal last week at the World Judo Championships in Tokyo, Arab sports media devoted much of their attention to Abdelaal. Following his loss, Abdelaal refused to shake hands with Muki, who had extended his own hand. For its part, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement that “sports needs to be kept separate from politics.”

On Thursday, Egyptian Judo Federation Vice President Marzouk Ali issued a statement saying that the Abdelaal’s refusal to shake Muki’s hand was the result of unfairness in the Egyptian’s loss. “There was injustice behind Abdelaal’s loss,” Ali said. “The Israeli should have lost, which didn’t happen, and the Egyptian judoka, therefore, didn’t shake his hand.”

The Israeli embassy in Cairo also weighed in on the matter, referring to the peace treaty that Egypt signed with Israel in 1979. “After 40 years of peace and innumerable handshakes,” the embassy tweeted in Arabic, “Sagi Muki extended his hand to Mohamed Abdelaal after beating him in the world championship semifinals, in a sportsmanlike spirit.

Egypt and Israel have signed a peace treaty in 1979. Before the peace accords in Camp David, the two countries had specifically fought many wars. However, since the peace treaty, wars between Israel and Arab states have stopped as Egypt came out of the scene.

Nevertheless, the Egyptian-Israeli peace has remained “cold” in the Egyptian public opinion spectrum. In 2011, Pew survey reported that 98% of Egyptians were holding anti-Semitic sentiments.

Since the military coup led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi against the first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, the relation between the al-Sisi regime and Israel has developed on the security and intelligence levels in Sinai Peninsula.

Moreover, al-Sisi regime is working on enhancing intimate diplomatic relation to open the way for full normalization. Its is worth to mention that in many speeches, al-Sisi promised Israel “warmer” peace adding that Egypt is ready to mediate to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He also had described the Israel-Egypt model as “a real opportunity to write a bright page in the history of our region to move towards peace. In addition, he urged Israel and the Palestinians to look to the “wonderful” example set by his country and the Zionist entity and agree on a solution that lets them exist in peace as two neighboring states.