How Many More Palestinians Must Be Killed To Suspend Israel From Paris Olympic Games? – OpEd


Sports diplomacy is a multifaceted domain that captures the collective ambitions of a nation on the international stage. It manifests in two principal dimensions: Diplomacy in the service of sports, which encompasses diplomatic endeavors that enhance a nation’s sporting success, and Sports in the service of diplomacy, a concept generally resisted by the Olympic Committee to avert the politicization of sports, aligning with Article 3 of the Olympic Charter. This nuanced perspective on sports diplomacy not only promotes the competitive ethos but also upholds the sanctity of sports from political entanglement.

Article 3, paragraph 5 of the Olympic Charter explicitly prohibits any form of demonstration or political, religious, and racial propaganda within Olympic venues. Despite this, the history of the Games has been marked by political protests. Typically, these have manifested as sanctions or boycotts, serving as a powerful statement within the realm of international sports.

Throughout Olympic history, boycotts have been a significant form of political protest, reflecting the global tensions of their times. The 1908 London Olympics were marked by Ireland’s boycott, a significant political statement of the era. In 1956, the Melbourne Olympics were overshadowed by China’s absence, protesting Taiwan’s participation, which ignited a series of boycotts that lasted for three decades. That same year, the Netherlands and Spain withdrew from the games, objecting to the Soviet military intervention in Hungary. Concurrently, the Suez Canal crisis led Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq to abstain from participating in the 1956 Olympics. Fast forward to 1980, and over 50 countries from the Western bloc boycotted the Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This was followed by the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which saw a retaliatory boycott by the Soviet Union and its allies, echoing the discord of the previous games. These events serve as poignant reminders of the intersection of sports and politics, where the Olympic platform has been repeatedly used to make geopolitical statements.

Olympic boycotts take various forms, not only with countries choosing not to participate but also with governments imposing bans on other nations. This phenomenon has recurred throughout history. For instance, South Africa was barred from the Olympics from 1964 in Tokyo to 1992 in Barcelona due to its apartheid policies. More recently, Russia faced sanctions following its military actions in Ukraine, leading to a ban by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Russian and Belarusian participation in all Olympic and related international events. Initially, this ban was absolute, but it was later revised to allow athletes from these countries to compete, albeit not under their national flags. Such sanctions are not without precedent, and they serve as a reminder that the Olympic spirit is intertwined with global ethical standards. Today calls for similar actions against nations violating human rights principles, such as Iran, reflect the ongoing debate about the role of sports in upholding human values.

Israel can rightly be considered a perfect example of a state that relies on terrorism and war crimes. In the last 75 years, this regime has systematically employed a full spectrum of criminal tactics on the Palestinian people. However, the most egregious escalation of these offenses occurred in the aftermath of the Al-Aqsa storm operation. Since the start of the war, Israel has perpetrated acts so heinous that even its staunchest Western allies cannot muster the audacity to endorse them publicly anymore. 

Throughout the Gaza war, credible sources report that fatalities have occurred at a harrowing rate, with one individual’s life lost every four minutes. The toll has been particularly devastating among the most vulnerable, with an average of six children and four women perishing every hour. To date, Israel’s onslaught has resulted in over 30,000 deaths. To date, the Israeli regime has deliberately targeted a total of 52 health facilities, rendering 25 hospitals completely inoperative. Astonishingly, the intensity of the regime’s bombardment in a mere week has surpassed the cumulative bombardment experienced in Afghanistan throughout the entire duration of the American presence. In the initial 25 days of the conflict, the Gaza Strip witnessed a death toll that surpassed the entire casualty count of the year-and-a-half-long war in Ukraine. The ferocity of the bombings on Gaza was of such magnitude that it equaled double the force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The regime’s assaults have utilized a staggering quantity of explosives, amounting to an average of 10 kilograms for every resident of the Gaza Strip. Moreover, a three-week span of warfare has seen the tragic loss of more Palestinian children’s lives than the global total of child fatalities recorded since the year 2019.

The New York Times report drew a stark comparison between the atrocities committed by the US in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan over two decades and those perpetrated by Israel in the Gaza Strip within a mere two months. The regime’s ruthless campaign against the city’s inhabitants has culminated in charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice, with South Africa spearheading the case, backed by a coalition of nations, organizations, academics, and cultural figures.

The aforementioned instances represent merely a fraction of the Israeli regime’s extensive list of transgressions within the Gaza Strip. Consequently, a pressing and significant debate arises: in light of such extensive criminal activity, is it not imperative for the international community to call for Israel’s exclusion from the Paris Olympic Games? Indeed, there is a compelling case for this to become a universal outcry, ensuring that a regime responsible for the deaths of countless Palestinian children is barred from participating in a global sporting event. A recent Palestinian Football Association report disclosed that no fewer than 85 Palestinian athletes, including 55 footballers, fell victim to the regime’s lethal force. Among those tragically lost was Hani al-Masri, an esteemed former player and manager of the Palestinian Olympic football team. This revelation has galvanized athletes worldwide, prompting them to initiate campaigns advocating for Israel’s prohibition from the Paris Olympics. They seek a thorough inquiry into potential breaches of the Olympic Charter, which enshrines sport as a fundamental human right.

Today’s egregious human rights abuses by the Israelis bear a chilling resemblance to the conditions of South Africa during the apartheid era, which led to its Olympic exclusion. Numerous African human rights activists and anti-apartheid advocates contend that Israel’s pattern of offenses over time reveals a system of apartheid in Gaza that is markedly more brutal, blatant, and inhumane than its historical counterpart in Africa. Consequently, there is a justified expectation that Israel should face at least an equivalent censure concerning their Olympic participation.

Ultimately, it must be emphasized that the Olympic Charter is dedicated to leveraging sports as a conduit for the harmonious development of humanity, fostering a peaceful society, and upholding human dignity. Should the International Olympic Committee permit Israeli athletes to compete in the Paris Games, it would not only signify a disregard for the rights of the Palestinians, their families, and friends—who have all suffered immensely under the Isarel’s savage assaults—but also indicate a departure from the Committee’s foundational mission to preserve human dignity. Furthermore, the inclusion of Israel in the Olympic Games amidst its ongoing genocide against the Palestinians would convey a tacit endorsement of egregious war crimes by the international sporting community.

Timothy Hopper

Timothy Hopper is an international relations graduate of American University.

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