“The 20th Maccabiah Games, which opens July 4, is a racist and ultranationalist event,” Rogel Alpher began his June 24 column in Haaretz (“Boycott the Maccabiah Games“). He continued that
the condition for participation in the “Jewish Olympics” is racist. Only Jews take part in the Maccabiah. . . . In an Israeli championship, the participants include Israeli citizens of all races. In the Maccabiah, the participants are from many states but all belong to a single, supreme race.
But Alpher did not stop there; rather, he further embellished his charge with a slew of Nazi comparisons. He determined that Israel “makes the 1936 Berlin Olympics seem liberal.” He added that the Maccabiah Games are “a victory of the Aryan race theory.” Alpher moreover ventured:
Nazi Germany barred Gretel Bermann, a Jews who set the German high-jump record in 1936, from participating in that year’s Olympic Games in Berlin. A similar fate awaits an Israeli-Arab track and field record holder, merely because she is not Jewish.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that the article’s headline is “Boycott the Maccabiah Games.”
But are the Maccabiah Games exclusive for Jews only? Not according to Maccabiah’s Basic Regulations, which state (second clause): “The participation in the 20th Maccabiah Competitions is open to all Israeli citizens and to Jewish athletes from around the world. . .
In addition, Maccabiah told Presspectiva, CAMERA’s Hebrew website:
According to the regulations, every Israeli citizen is invited to take part. The contestants that make up the sports wing are selected by the union according to athletic parameters. We do not have figures regarding the number of non-Jewish athletes in the 2017 Maccabiah or in previous Maccabiah Games because this information is not a factor and does not bear any influence regarding the athlete’s participation.
In the beginning, the purpose of Maccabiah was to hold a Jewish Olympics in the land of Israel in an era when the International Olympic Committee refused to admit Israeli athletes on the basis that “stateless athletes may not participate in the Olympics.”
The participation of Arabs in Maccabiah is not a new phenomenon. In an extensive Haaretz article from 2013 (“Arab athletes at the Maccabiah: Going for gold, seeking recognition“), a veteran employee of the Kfar Maccabiah archive said “as early as the second Maccabiah in 1935, the British High Commissioner ordered the inclusion of Arab residents of Mandatory Palestine.”
In addition, according to educational material published by Maccabiah (“Tales of the Maccabiot“),
Sir Arthur Wauchope had replaced Chancellor as High Commissioner in the autumn of 1931, beginning the Golden Age of the Jewish community in Eretz Israel. Wauchope admired Jewish sports and the achievements of the Zionist movement in Eretz Israel and extended his patronage to the Maccabiah, on condition that it host Arab and English groups.
Indeed, in the sixth Maccabiah competitions (1961), Edward Maron, an Israeli Arab weight-lifter, took home a medal.
In the 17th Maccabiah (2005), Israeli Arab Asala Shahada, a 17-year-old Muslim swimmer, won the gold medal. As Charlotte Halle, now the international director of Haaretz, wrote back in 2005:
When it comes to the Israeli delegation, Jewishness is not a criteria: one of the first medal winners at the 17th Maccabiah was Asala Shahada, a female Arab swimmer.
Following Presspectiva‘s exposé of Alpher’s gross falsehood, Haaretz editors added, both in Hebrew and English, the fact that Israeli Arabs also participate in Maccabiah. Editors nevertheless inexplicably left intact the completely false and contradictory claim that Maccabiah is for Jews only. Thus, the amended, and self-contradictory passage now absurdly states:
But the condition for participation in the “Jewish Olympics” is racist. Only Jews take part in the Maccabiah. Not the best athletes from around the world, but only Jewish athletes. Some Israeli Arab athletes have taken part in the Maccabiah Games over the years, but that doesn’t change the event’s nature as the “Jewish Olympics.”
In addition, Alpher originally wrote in his final paragraph:
Nazi Germanny barred Gretel Bergmann, a Jew who set the German high-jump record in 1936, from participating in that year’s Olympic Games in Berlin. A similar fate awaits an Israeli-Arab track-and-field record holder, merely because she is not Jewish.
In response to Presspectiva’s work, Haaretz editors removed that false and defamatory claim.
Notably, the British government and the European Union Parliament recently adopted a working definition for anti-Semitism which slams comparisons between the State of Israel and Nazism as anti-Semitic.