Israel Should Be Banned From Olympics Just Like Russia – OpEd

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Russia and Belarus have both been banned from participating in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics because of their involvement in the war on Ukraine. So why is Israel not being banned as well?

Israel’s military is engaged in one of the worst attacks on a civilian population since the Second World War, with more than 37,000 Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip. And we only have Israel’s word that many of those killed were members of Hamas, the militant group that launched a violent attack against Israel, killing about 1,200 people, on Oct. 7, 2023.

In the first two years following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, more than 30,000 Ukrainians were killed or wounded.

There are actually more specific details on how Ukrainians are being killed by Russia than there are on Israel’s reckless military bombardment of nearly every city in the Gaza Strip. The details of the violence against Ukraine is so specific that humanitarian and aid organizations have pinned down the casualty rate to 42 civilians every day.

More than 87 percent of the Ukrainians killed, or 9,241 people, were casualties of explosive weapons. More than 5.9 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine to other countries and about 4 million are displaced within Ukraine.

In Gaza, nearly 85 percent of the population of 2.3 million have been forced from their homes and are constantly seeking shelter. Israel not only fires missiles into the imprisoned land mass, but it has also sent tanks, troops and snipers into the area, killing targets as they move from Beit Lahia in the north to Rafah in the south.

The host of this year’s Olympics, France, is divided on the Israeli invasion and the government has taken action to oppose a rise in antisemitism. French President Emmanuel Macron has also offered consoling words to Muslims.

Why has the International Olympic Committee not taken action to curtail or prohibit Israel’s participation in the Olympics? If the international rule of law and the West’s supposed opposition to the killing of civilians had any meaning, Israel would be banned.

The problem is that, when it comes to the Middle East, the West has always cared less about the suffering of Arabs and Muslims than the suffering of non-Arabs and non-Muslims. It is that racist and Islamophobic attitude, which is driven by ugly historical stereotypes that date back to the Crusades of almost 1,000 years ago, that allows the West to be concerned for Ukraine and angry with Russia, while being unconcerned about Arabs in Gaza and throughout the Middle East and accepting of Israel.

Israel largely controls the media narrative of the war, falsely asserting that the violence began on Oct. 7. The Western news media has generally championed that narrative, carrying water for Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel has engaged in a war not only against Hamas, but also against independent, mainly Arab journalists, killing more than 100 of those who have been reporting on the war from Gaza and who have not been embedded with Israel’s military, which censors and controls content.

The violence by Israel before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack was excessive but underreported by the Western news media. The truth is that the Israeli carnage against Palestinians began long before the foundation of Hamas, which has its roots in an Israeli effort to undermine the rise of secular Palestinian nationalism in the 1970s.

Israeli military censorship in both Gaza and the West Bank since the start of the occupation in 1967 means it is tough to know the exact number of Palestinians who have been killed, as well as the extent of the land theft that continues to take place in order to build and expand Jewish-only settlements.

Estimates of the number of Palestinians killed in 2023 before Oct. 7 range from 175 to 230, while in 2022 it was between 250 and 400. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, tries to maintain its own list but, several years ago, Israel’s government cracked down on such humanitarian and human rights groups.

In 2021, B’Tselem carried out exhaustive research and detailed its findings in a document that concluded that Israel was carrying out apartheid policies that discriminated against non-Jews.

Months later, Israel’s government declared six prominent Palestinian human rights groups to be “terrorist organizations,” curbing their ability to document Israel’s human rights abuses and its military and police violence against non-Jews.

However, following the Hamas attack, with Palestinian organizations silenced by Israel’s restrictive policies and threats, B’Tselem documented how Israel’s invasion of Gaza was emphasizing violence against civilians.

Despite Israel’s efforts to cloak its violence and focus on Hamas’ violence, along with its efforts to censor any media outlet that does not embrace its propaganda, including by targeting and killing independent journalists, there is more than enough evidence to show that Israel is a greater threat to civilians in Gaza than Russia is to civilians in Ukraine.

If the International Olympic Committee had a conscience, it would immediately block Israel from participating in Paris, along with all nations that engage in excessive and unrestricted violence against civilians. On the other hand, if Israel is allowed to compete in the 2024 Olympics, Russia and Belarus should be allowed to compete as well.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected].

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