05 August '16..
Even before the opening ceremony, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics left a somewhat bitter taste in the mouths of Israelis. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict managed to worm its way into the most important sporting event in the world, one that is supposed to be free from politics and certainly from terrorism. Jibril Rajoub -- former head of the Palestinian Preventive Security Force and a contender for the leadership of the Palestinian Authority after President Mahmoud Abbas' time is up, an avowed supporter of terrorism who has incited to murder even during this most recent wave of terrorist violence -- was the man chosen by the Palestinians to head their Olympic committee.
Israel, the International Olympic Committee, and the Olympic Committee of Israel have refrained from taking any action against Rajoub, given the importance of the Arab vote on the IOC. But bereaved families, the terrorist victims advocacy organization Almagor, and the Palestinian Media Watch watchdog organization, which has for years documented and translated Rajoub's statements in the Palestinian press, are finding it hard to stand by quietly in the face of such absurdity: The man who openly supported terrorism and this year congratulated murderous terrorists on Palestinian television broadcasts,the man who swore only a few years ago that if the Palestinians ever had a nuclear weapon, they would use it immediately (against Israel), will be walking around in a tie in the next few days, smiling at cocktail receptions during this sporting event that symbolizes unity among nations and bridges to peace.
The material on Rajoub, some of which held hope for leaders of Israel's security apparatus in the past, is hardly a state secret. The Rajoub File, which researchers from Palestinian Media Watch have spent the last few weeks compiling, was recently placed before Israeli decision-makers. The unprecedented decision by the IOC under its German head, Thomas Bach, to hold the first memorial ceremony for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Games in 1972 stands in contrast to the IOC's refusal to do a thing about Rajoub.
The IOC generally does not interfere in politics, even when it uses them for its own purposes. Some well-known historical examples of that include the Berlin Olympics in 1936, which were opened by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler; and on the other end of the spectrum, during the Cold War, the decisions by the U.S. to boycott the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and by the former USSR to boycott the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
On the other hand, according to a study prepared a week ago by Israel's Wingate Institute, despite the IOC's general disinclination for international intervention, the body has been involved more than once in decisions of a diplomatic nature, when it believes that doing so would truly contribute to Olympic values. Germany and Austria were kept out of the 1920 Olympics because of their responsibility for World War I; Germany and Japan were excluded from the London Games in 1948 because of their responsibility for World War II. The IOC excluded South Africa from the Olympic movement in 1964, an international contribution to the fight against that country's apartheid regime. However, for years, political pressure kept the IOC from recognizing East Germany or Taiwan as separate sporting entities -- and political pressure has, as we know, led it to recognize the Olympic committees of the Palestinians and Kosovo, without either of them having been recognized as a state by the U.N.
The Rajoub case is a different matter. This isn't a country, but a person who represents a political-national entity, and he is a classic example of how politics can influence sports. In a sporting world free from politics, a supporter of terrorism like Rajoub would have been tossed out the door long ago. But Rajoub has backing.
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