Suspend The Apartheid Regime From The 2024 Olympics – OpEd


Sports diplomacy encompasses a diverse array of activities that realize a nation’s aspirations and ambitions on the global stage. It operates in two distinct spheres: 1. diplomacy in the service of sports, which refers to diplomatic efforts aimed at bolstering a nation’s athletic achievements. 2. sports in the service of diplomacy, a practice that faces opposition from the Olympic Committee. This opposition stems from concerns over the politicization of sports, a stance reinforced by Article 3 of the Olympic Charter which advocates for the autonomy of sports from political influence. This multifaceted approach to diplomacy through sports not only enhances international relations but also promotes peace, unity, and mutual understanding among countries through the universal language of athletic competition.

Article 3, paragraph 5 of the Olympic Charter explicitly prohibits any form of demonstration or political, religious, and racial propaganda within Olympic venues. This clause upholds the principle that the Olympic arenas are spaces dedicated to the sport and its unifying spirit, free from external ideological influences. Despite these regulations, the history of the Games has witnessed political protests manifesting primarily through sanctions and boycotts and the Olympics have been a stage for not only athletic prowess but also political expression

For instance, the 1908 London Olympics saw a boycott by Ireland, marking a significant political statement. The 1956 Melbourne Olympics were marked by China’s absence, a protest against Taiwan’s participation, leading to a three-decade-long series of boycotts. That same year, the Netherlands and Spain withdrew from the games, objecting to the Soviet Union’s military actions in Hungary. Concurrently, the Suez Canal crisis prompted Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq to abstain. Fast forward to 1980, over 50 countries, led by the Western bloc, boycotted the Moscow Olympics following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In a tit-for-tat response, the Soviet Union and its allies skipped the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, continuing the trend of political dissent on the Olympic stage.

Olympic boycotts take various forms, not only with countries choosing not to participate but also through international sanctions that prevent participation. This has occurred repeatedly over time. For instance, South Africa was barred from the Olympics from 1964 until 1992 due to its apartheid policies. More recently, Russia faced sanctions following its military actions in Ukraine, leading to a ban from all Olympic and related global sports events for Russia and Belarus. Initially, this ban was absolute, but it was later revised to allow athletes from these nations to compete under a neutral flag. Such sanctions are not without controversy, as they raise questions about the consistency and fairness of applying punitive measures in the international sports arena. The debate continues today as to whether Israel should face similar repercussions for actions deemed contrary to the values upheld by the global community.

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 committed all methods of crime against the Palestinian people, the peak of which was after the Al-Aqsa storm operation. In 50 days, Israel committed such crimes in the Gaza Strip that even the western supporters of this regime did not dare to publicly support it. A quick look at Israel’s crimes in the Gaza war is a good indication of the brutality of its attacks.

During the conflict in Gaza, reports from various institutions indicate that a Palestinian is killed every four minutes, on average 6 children and 4 women every hour, and more than 30,000 by far. In just three weeks of the war, the number of Palestinian children killed has exceeded the number of children killed in all parts of the world since 2019. The conflict has resulted in substantial damage to infrastructure, with more than 50 health facilities affected. Comparatively, the intensity of bombardment in this conflict over one week has been reported to be higher than all US bombardments in Afghanistan and the number of causalities in Gaza over 25 days has exceeded the Ukraine war’s over more than two years. Also, the use of explosives in the region has been a whopping 10 kilograms for each Palestinian.  

In a comprehensive analysis, The New York Times drew parallels between the civilian casualties in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan attributed to American military action over two decades, and those in Gaza linked to Israeli operations within a span of less than two months. This stark contrast in the scale and timeframe of the incidents has propelled a coalition, spearheaded by South Africa and comprising various nations, organizations, intellectuals, and cultural figures, to initiate proceedings against Israel at the International Court of Justice, accusing it of genocidal acts against the inhabitants of Gaza.

The incidents mentioned represent just a fraction of the atrocities committed in Gaza. The pressing question now is whether such actions warrant the exclusion of Israel from the Paris Olympic Games. It is imperative that the international community unites to call for this exclusion, thereby upholding the sanctity of a global sporting event from the participation of a regime accused of targeting children. A recent report by the Palestinian Football Association reveals the tragic loss of at least 85 Palestinian athletes, including 55 footballers, to the violence. Among them was Hani Al-Masri, a revered former player and general manager of the Palestinian Olympic football team. This loss has galvanized athletes worldwide, prompting campaigns advocating for Israel’s ban from the Paris Olympics and demanding an inquiry into potential breaches of the Olympic Charter, which upholds sports as a fundamental human right.

Current human rights concerns in Israel have drawn comparisons to South Africa’s apartheid era—a time when South Africa faced Olympic exclusion due to its policies. Advocates for human rights, who have historically been at the forefront of anti-apartheid efforts, suggest that the severity and visibility of human rights violations in certain territories under Israel’s influence may surpass those witnessed in South Africa. Given these observations, there is speculation that Israel might encounter Olympic repercussions similar to those experienced by South Africa during apartheid.

The Olympic Charter aspires to leverage sports as a conduit for harmonious human development, fostering a peaceful society that upholds human dignity. Should the International Olympic Committee (IOC) permit the participation of Israeli athletes in the Paris Games, it could be perceived as an oversight of the rights of Palestinians and their kin, who have suffered losses due to the conflict. This decision may also be viewed as a departure from the IOC’s commitment to human dignity. Furthermore, the inclusion of Israel in the Olympic Games, amidst the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, could potentially be interpreted by the global community as an alignment with grave violations of international law.

Timothy Hopper

Timothy Hopper is an international relations graduate of American University.

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