NY Times Covers Up Emirati Intolerance at Judo Tournament
A New York Times article yesterday about the opening of the new Louvre Abu Dhabi museum as a "soft power" means "to promote the capital as a tolerant global city" completely whitewashes a recent egregious instance of Emirati intolerance: an official ban on all Israeli symbols, including the Jewish state's anthem, at the international Grand Slam judo tournament in Abu Dhabi last month ("Louvre Abu Dhabi, a Cultural Cornerstone Where East Meets West," page C1).
The digital article's sub-headline states: "The Emirates' aim: to promote the capital as a tolerant, global city,
and its flagship museum, opening this week, as a bridge between civilizations"
Entirely ignoring the official wholesale Emirati ban on all Israeli symbols and reducing anti-Israeli discrimination to the private slight of just one individual athlete who was immediately repudiated by Emirati government officials, The Times' Doreen Carvajal misleads:
Despite these lofty goals, the gritty reality of geopolitics intrudes in the country's budding cultural sphere. In late October, as preparations were underway to hang the paintings, a local judo athlete at Abu Dhabi's international Grand Slam tournament refused to shake handsafter losing to an Israeli competitor.
Image-conscious government sports officials rushed to apologize formally for the snub and to pose for photographs with the Israeli athletes.
Yet, the "image-conscious government sports officials" were apparently not quite as image conscious as Carvajal suggests. As The New York Times reported at the time ("Warning Issued About Israeli Flag," AP, B12, Oct. 26):
The International Judo Federation is demanding that the United Arab Emirates treat Israeli athletes equally after reports that the Israeli flag would be banned at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam this week.
The tournament was reportedly banning Israeli athletes from wearing their country's symbols on uniforms and was singling Israel out with a ban on displaying its flag or playing its anthem.
Moreover, in the online version of Carvajal's article yesterday, the phrase "refused to shake hands" is linked to a Washington Post story about the official Emirati ban on Israeli symbols at the international judo tournament ("Israeli judoka sings national anthem on podium, despite UAE tournament officials' refusal to replay it"). The Post article to which Carvajal's article is linked does not even mention the private refusal of a local athlete to shake hands with the Israeli, a much less significant event that the official Emirati ban. Here's what The Washington Post piece did report about the absurd situation in which an Israeli medalist sang his national anthem alone on the podium while the International Judo Federation anthem was played over the loudspeaker:
Israels Tal Flicker quietly sang his countrys national anthem as he was awarded the gold medal at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament Thursday. The music playing from the arenas loudspeakers, however, as well as the flag rising above his head, had nothing to do with Israel. Instead of Hatikvah and the Israeli flag, organizers of the tournament in the United Arab Emirates played the International Judo Federation anthem and raised the IJF flag. . .
That UAE organizers refused to recognize Israel during the tournament even making Israeli athletes wear generic IJF-branded uniforms is not a surprise. Although the IJF urged organizers to treat athletes from all countries absolutely equally in all aspects, without any exception, according to a letter obtained by the Associated Pressthat the IJF sent to the UAE Judo Federation, the UAE contingent refused to comply. Organizers reportedly cited concerns for the Israeli athletes safety as reason for making them compete as neutral.
Why does The Times ignore the official Emirati ban of all Israeli symbols, reducing it to the private affair of a lone athlete as opposed to the government's policy? The state policy to ban all Israeli symbols at the international sporting event provides critical information for readers to understand the stark realities that stand in the way of "[t]he Emerates' ultimate aim . . . to promote the capital as a tolerant global city," as Carvajal puts it.
This is not the first instance in which The New York Times has downplayed anti-Israel Arab hostility in international sporting events. In August 2016, when Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby refused to shake hands with Or Sasson, his Israeli opponent, The Times' Victor Mather reported: "There is a history of animosity between Israeli and other Middle Eastern athletes at the Olympics, including in judo," as if the two sides both engaged in animosity.
Mather helpfully went on to cite examples, all of which tellingly pointed to one directional hostility: Arab and Muslim athletes snubbing Israeli competitors. First, he cited the incident a week earlier in which a Lebanese team prevented an Israeli team for boarding a bus. Then, he noted that a Saudi judo player forfeited a match, reportedly to avoid competing against an Israeli. Finally, Mather cited a 2004 incident in which Iranian judoka Arash Miresmaeili apparently binged in order to be disqualified so as to not to face off against an Israeli.
As CAMERA's Snapshots blog wrote: "Israeli Olympians are consistently on the receiving end of Arab and Muslim animosity so why misleadingly characterize the hostility as 'animosity between Israeli and other Middle Eastern athletes'?"
For the Hebrew version of this analysis, please see Presspectiva.