The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) has been urged by UK Lawyers for Israel to take action against a Lebanese athlete who withdrew from a martial arts competition to avoid competing with an Israeli rival. The terror group Hezbollah hailed the athlete, Charbel Abou Daher, as “heroic” for withdrawing from the competition.
Charbel Abu Daher screenshot from YouTube
On 18 August 2022 Charbel Abou Daher, withdrew from the 2022 Youth International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) World Championships in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to avoid competing with an Israeli opponent.
His action was backed by the Lebanese Mixed Martial Arts Federation, who called his decision “patriotic”. The Lebanese ministry of youth and sport also praised this action, calling Daher a hero, and Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Nasrallah described the action as “heroic”. Hezbollah has been designated a Terrorist Organisation by the United States of America and the European Union, and is proscribed as a Terrorist Group in the United Kingdom.
UK Lawyers for Israel have written to the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) to point out that Daher breached many of their rules by his actions and should be penalised accordingly. letter UKLFI to IMMAF 24.8.22
For example, IMAAF’s Code of Ethics states at 2.1 that “We will behave ethically and act with integrity in all situations, keeping in mind that a reputation for integrity is of the utmost importance to IMMAF and its objectives.”
To boycott an opponent who has earned the right to compete, based solely on a characteristic of that opponent is unethical and lacks integrity.
Regarding Respect and dignity IMAAF’s Code of Ethics states: “We will treat everyone with respect, and protect the personal dignity, privacy and personal rights of every human being regardless of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.”
But Mr Abou Daher treated his Israeli opponent with a complete lack of respect and undermined his dignity in refusing to compete against him.
IMAAF says it has zero tolerance of discrimination and harassment and its Code of Ethics states: “We are committed to diversity. There shall be no discrimination connected to race, ethnicity, origin, skin colour, nationality, religion, ….or engagement in any kind of verbal or physical harassment based on any of the above-mentioned or any other criteria.”
And yet Mr Abou Daher discriminated against his Israeli opponent based on his nationality.
IMAAF also promotes fair play saying: “We believe in the importance of sportsmanship, which will guide us at all times in all our actions and decisions.”
However, boycotting an opponent because of his nationality shows a complete lack of sportsmanship and fair play. If fair play truly guides IMMAF then action will be taken against Mr Abou Daher for his behaviour.
IMMAF also says that it treats all people with dignity and respect, and wants to eliminate all forms of discrimination, and also states that its objective is to challenge discrimination. It is clear that Mr Daher discriminated against his Israeli opponent, and that IMMAF should challenge this discrimination.
Sam Green, a director of UKLFI commented:
“What should have been a sporting event, where personal endeavour was tested and triumphed, has instead been used as an instrument of propaganda in internal Lebanese politics, including being adopted to advance the agenda of a proscribed terror organisation. Only by taking appropriate action against Mr Abu Daher, relevant members of the Lebanese delegation to the Championship, and the Lebanese IMMAF, can incidents like this be prevented in future, and prevent the IMMAF being drawn into national and international political issues it has no role in.”