Lebanese fighter withdraws from tournament to avoid Israeli opponent

A Lebanese mixed martial arts fighter has withdrawn from the 2022 IMMAF World Youth Championships in the United Arab Emirates to avoid facing an Israeli opponent.

According to Al-Mayadeen, an Arabic-language Lebanese news channel, Charbel Abou Daher was pressured to withdraw from the event after the 48kg draw placed him against Israeli Yonatan Mak.

Daher’s withdrawal was acknowledged by the Lebanese Mixed Martial Arts Federation, which said in an Instagram post that the decision was due to “patriotic reasons”.

The Lebanese fighter is the latest in a string of athletes determined to avoid facing Israeli opposition. In July, Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt Hamid Amraei withdrew from the Fujairah Pro Jiu-Jitsu International Championship in Abu Dhabi due to a clash with an Israeli opponent. The following month, Jordanian taekwondo practitioner Maysir al-Dahamsheh withdrew from the final of the 2022 World Junior Championships in protest at the normalization of relations between some Arab countries and the Israeli government.

An Iraqi doubles duo also withdrew from the 2022 Open Wheelchair Tennis Tournament in August after being paired with competitors from Israel.

Many of those who choose to boycott the Israeli opposition in sports competitions do so as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and to protest the Israeli government’s discriminatory regime against Palestinians. In 2021, Human Rights Watch called Israel’s systemic mistreatment of Palestinians “crimes of apartheid and persecution”, while Amnesty International called Israel’s actions a “cruel system of domination”.

Kristen T. Prall