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September 16, 1988 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-16

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Olyra lc Hurdle

On the sports field, the Arab war
against Israel has ranged from
terrorism to political intimidation


Special to The Jewish News

ne of the common re-
frains of athletes is
that politics should be
kept out of sports, but
the truth is the two
have always been, and will continue
to be, intertwined. As the 1988 Olym-
pics begin, this overlap will become
an increasing focus of attention.
Although the Eastern Bloc nations
have agreed to participate, Cuba at
first announced its intention to
boycott the games because of the In-
ternational Olympic Committee's
failure to support North Korea's
demands for greater involvement in
the Summer Olympics in Seoul.
Western athletes and governments,
meanwhile, assert that the politics
should be kept out of the 1988 Olym-
pics. Of course, such pronouncements
ring hollow after the U.S. boycott of
the 1980 Olympics in Moscow pro-
testing the Soviet invasion of
Paradoxically, there seems to be
no hesitation on the part of athletes
or governments to mix politics and
sports when it comes to South Africa.
That nation's athletes have become
pariahs as a result of international
boycott designed to protest apartheid.
One young woman, track star Zola
Budd, has been hounded throughout
her career because she was born in
South Africa and, even after becom-
ing a British citizen, is punished for
her nationality. Most recently, a
group of nations threatened to pull
out of the International Cross Coun-
try Championships if Budd were per-
mitted to compete. The United States
track czars have also barred her from
competing here.
, This is not the only political
sports boycott, however. Another
which receives far less attention is
part of the Arab war against Israel.
Most people believe that the
Arab-Israeli conflict first intruded in-
to sports when terrorists murdered a



group of Israeli athletes at the 1972
Munich Olympics, but the truth is the
Arabs made sports a part of their
overall strategy of isolating Israel
from the community of nations
almost from the beginning.
Even prior to the establishment of
Israel, the Arabs initiated an
economic boycott against Israel,
refusing to trade with Israel and
blacklisting foreign firms that did.
Unlike the economic boycott,
however, the Arabs have not gone so
far as to blacklist nations whose
sports teams compete with Israel
though they do exert pressure on
those most susceptible to their
The Arabs do not have much
power in the sporting world so they
have not been particularly successful
in enforcing a boycott of Israel in ma-
jor sporting events — with the excep-
tion of the quadrennial Asian Games.
In 1962, Israel was excluded from the
games held in Djakarta and have
been prevented from participating
since 1974. In the 1974 games in
Teheran, the nations of China, North
Korea, Pakistan and all the Arab
lands boycotted Israel's participation.
The Indian government refused to in-
vite Israeli athletes to the 1982
games in New Delhi for "security
reasons," but the truth was that Arab
members of the Asian Games Federa-
tion agreed to underwrite the cost of
the event if Israel was excluded
Israel's inability to crack through the
sports boycott in Asia parallels the
difficulties it has had in Asian
political forums where Israel has also
been regularly excluded.
There are several reasons for
Asian complicity in the Arab boycott.
First, there is the wealth and oil of
the Arab states. Second, many of the
Asian nations want to demonstrate
their anti-imperialist credentials.
Third, there are large Muslim popula-
tions in several of these countries. For
example, India has a large Muslim
minority; her rival, Pakistan, is a
Muslim country, most of India's oil is


Eleven of these Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists at Munich.

supplied by the Arabs, and the Gan-
dhis have consistently tried to
assume a leadership role among the
non-aligned, anti-imperialist nations.
The Soviet Union has also
cooperated in the boycott to a limited
extent since 1967 when relations with
Israel were severed. Although the
Soviets have competed at events at-
tended by Israelis, they have refused
to compete in Israel.
In 1980, Israel joined the
American-led boycott of the Moscow

Olympics, but was prepared to par-
ticipate in the Goodwill Games
organized in Moscow by Ted Turner
in 1986. Prior to the event, the Anti-
Defamation League was given
assurances by athletic 'officials that
Israel had been invited to attend. In
fact, the Soviets refused to invite
Israel because the two nations have
no diplomatic relations and Turner
cooperated in the boycott.
Turner, whose stated goal was to
take politics out of sports, rationaliz-

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