Gaza Athlete Slams West's Double Standards in Politicising Sports as Russia Barred From Competition

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Tennis ball - Sputnik International, 1920, 02.05.2022
Throughout history, sports have been used by politicians to punish countries that refused to abide by their "standards and rules". Russia has been no exception but a Gaza-based athlete says that despite Israel history of "persecuting the Palestinian people", it has never faced a ban.
Several days ago, Wimbledon, the third tennis Grand Slam of the year, announced a ban on all Russian and Belarusian players.
The tournament, which is set to take place at the end of June, requires Russian and Belarusian players who wish to take part in the games to sign a declaration condemning Moscow's special military operation in Ukraine that began on 24 February. Those who refuse to do so will be excluded from the tournament.
Wimbledon is far from being the only sporting fixture to have decided to ban Russian players. A similar move has been taken by other clubs, and since the beginning of the military campaign Moscow was banned from participating in any international competitions ranging from football and basketball to hockey, ice skating and skiing.

Unfair Decision

The ban on Russia has already triggered a wave of criticism by a number of prominent sportsmen. Mohammed Hamada, a 20-year-old weightlifter from the Gaza Strip, who came 13th in last year's Tokyo Olympics becoming the first Palestinian to take part in such a competition, says he is one of them.
"Sports and politics are supposed to be separated. But for western countries this is clearly not the case and we see it now with what's happening with the Russian athletes".
This is not the first time sports has been used as a political tool against Russia. In 2016, Russian athletes were banned from the Rio Olympics after allegations were made of state-sponsored doping. Russian Olympic athletes were forced to compete under a neutral flag after the doping allegations.

Western Double Standards?

Hamada says "it is beyond his understanding" how international sports organisations ousted Russia but failed to act against Israel that has been "systematically oppressing the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip".
Israel has been conducting arrests in the West Bank and carrying out raids to curb the threat of terror emanating from those territories.
In the Gaza Strip, it has been imposing a tight blockade of the coastal enclave since 2007 after Hamas, an Islamist group deemed terrorist by the Jewish state, took control of the enclave.
To subdue the organisation and contain its threat, Israel has waged four major wars against armed Palestinian factions of the enclave. Those operations have killed thousands and injured many others. The infrastructure of the enclave has been repeatedly destroyed.

"Not once has the international community banned Israel from competing. Not once did they pay for their actions. The only people who pay the price are the Palestinians, and I am afraid that if the international community sees fit, our athletes can be punished as well," said Hamada.

The 20-year-old believes that being a Palestinian sportsman is difficult enough in itself. Apart from lacking necessary funds and equipment, Hamada and many others such as him find it hard to participate in regional and international competitions. To reach their destination they need to go through a long and laborious process of security checks to obtain visas. And they also spend days travelling even if tournaments are held in nearby countries.

"It is such an honour to represent my country on the global arena. And it is a shame when sportsmen are prevented from doing so. This is why politics should stay separate from sports and such decisions as we have observed with Russia should not take place".

Hamada is certain the decision of international bodies to exclude Moscow is reversible because "Russia is a great country without which any competition is unthinkable".
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