Lebanon's Abdullah Miniato has withdrawn from the international mixed martial arts (MMA) competition in Sophia, Bulgaria to avoid a match against an Israeli opponent, following the lead of two African athletes who refused to fight their Israeli rivals at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
The young Lebanese fighter and his coach, Muhammad Al-Gharbi, announced the withdrawal from the sports event after the draw placed Miniato against an Israeli athlete on Saturday.
Athletes hailing from Muslim nations have on numerous occasions refused to face Israeli opponents at key international competitions in a gesture of protest at the Israeli atrocities and the occupation of Palestinian lands.
'Palestinian cause bigger than Olympics'
In recent days, Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool and Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdrew from the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo to avoid having to confront Israeli opponents.
“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics, but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this,” Nourine said after he quit the games.
The IJF suspended both Nourine and his coach over the move.
The Algerian Olympic Committee also withdrew their accreditation and said the duo shall be subjected to sanctions, without specifying the type of sanctions.
Algeria does not recognize Israel and the two have no diplomatic relations. Algiers has emphasized on several occasions that any normalization with the Israeli regime is out of the question.
Meanwhile, Abdalrasool's decision was on par with broad sections of the Sudanese society who are opposed to Khartoum’s normalization of relations with the Israeli regime.
Sudan became the third of four Arab countries to agree to sign on to the US-brokered normalization accords in October, following the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and prior to Morocco.
Angry Sudanese protesters took to the streets and burned the Israeli flag to condemn the move.
Iranian athletes have similarly refused to take on Israeli rivals during international sports events in the past.
In a show of support for the Israeli regime, the International Judo Federation (IJF), last April, slapped a four-year ban on the Islamic Republic of Iran Judo Federation (IRIJF) over Iranian athletes refusing to face Israeli opponents.
The Islamic Republic strongly supports the Palestinian cause and does not recognize the Israeli regime.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, was highly welcomed by the IJF after its female athlete showed up at a match against an Israeli opponent in the competitions at the Tokyo Olympics.
The IJF praised the head of Saudi Arabia's Olympic Committee Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal Al Saud for encouraging the judoka to take part in the match.
While Saudi Arabia pays lip service to the Palestinian cause on the international stage, the kingdom is widely known to have extensive relations with the Israeli regime, including behind-the-scenes diplomatic and intelligence cooperation.
Saudi officials cautiously welcomed the UAE’s and Bahrain’s agreements with Israel, fueling speculation that the kingdom could be in line to normalize its relations with the occupying regime in Tel Aviv.
The Palestinians have condemned the normalization trend as “a stab in the back” by the Arab regimes.