UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Taekwondo athlete breaches rules by refusing to compete against Israeli

A Jordanian Taekwondo competitor refused to compete against an Israeli player, breaching World Taekwondo rules which uphold peace, integrity, respect and inclusiveness.

During 2022 World Taekwondo Cadet Championships, on 31 July in Sofia, Bulgaria, a Jordanian competitor Maysir Al-Dahamsheh, refused to compete rather than face an Israeli opponent because she opposed normalisation with Israel.

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) has written to the director general of World Taekwondo (WT) pointing out that Ms Al-Dahamsheh, and possibly coaching staff and Jordanian team officials, are in breach of  WT Statutes, Integrity Code of Conduct, Code of Ethics, Anti-Discrimination Policy and Competition Rules. WT has been asked to enforce the rules against Ms Al-Dahamsheh and to impose sanctions for this serious unsportsmanlike behaviour.

Taekwondo’s guiding vision is that “Peace is more Precious than Triumph,” and that WT aspires to “integrity, respect, tolerance, inclusiveness and leadership.” Boycotting a fellow competitor was a hostile act devoid of integrity, respect, tolerance or inclusivity.

The objective of WT is to “encourage peace and cooperation through participation in sport.” This hostile action encouraged division and exclusion.

WT is supposed to ensure “Fair play” and the “highest degree of sportsmanship and integrity”, and “harassment free sport”. Refusing to compete against a fully qualified competitor who has earned their place in competition represents an absolute absence of sportsmanship and integrity. Refusing to compete against a particular opponent is a form of bullying representing psychological harassment.

Furthermore WT is bound to ensure that no form of discrimination is allowed. Prohibited discriminations include “race…, creed, ethnic origin, …, religion,…,national, political,… birth or other status.”  Not taking action in this clear case of discrimination would be a breach of that clear commitment.

Anyone taking part in a WT sanctioned or promoted event is subject to the Integrity Code of Conduct which requires players (and management) to act “in good faith towards others and with mutual trust and understanding”. To boycott an opponent is a breach of this obligation.

Players are also committed to “conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner”, and are bound not to discriminate on the basis of “race,…ethnic origin,…culture, religion, political opinion,…other differences”. Boycotting an opponent for illegitmate reasons is grossly unprofessional and discourteous. Ms Al-Dahamsheh’s action in boycotting an Israeli opponent was an act of clear discrimination.

This kind of incident used to be common but has fortunately become rare in recent years. The reason for this is that sporting authorities have taken it very seriously.  Here are some examples of the sporting world taking action in incidents of this sort:

  • Following a Judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi where Israeli athletes were discriminated against, the organisers were told they would be stripped of the event unless they ensured free and equal participation. This was complied with.

  • In October 2019 the International Judo Federation (IJF) confirmed the suspension of the Iran Judo Federation from all judo competitions because it pressurised Iranian judokas not to fight Israelis.

  • After two Saudi junior players refused to play Israeli opponents at an event in Dnipro, Ukraine, Both they and their coach were suspended from the game for 6 months by the World Badminton Federation.

  • When Malaysia refused to admit Israeli competitors to the 2019 World Paralympic Swimming Championship to be held in that country, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) moved the event to London.

  • When Malaysia refused to let Israeli players attend the World Team Squash Championship in their country, the World Squash Federation cancelled the event rather than let it proceed without the Israeli players.

UKLFI was involved in all of these cases.

Sam Green, a director of UKLFI commented: “After several years of startling gains in ensuring that Israeli athletes are included on an equal footing in all forms of sporting endeavour it requires vigilance and a firm response from sporting authorities to make sure discrimination, which in the past had become routine, is not allowed to return