Photo Credit: Saudi Sports Ministry poster via MEMRI
Saudi Sports Ministry poster: “Tahani Al-Qahtani to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.” Source: Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, July 24, 2021

A debate on social media is raging over whether Saudi judoka Tahani Al-Qahtani should show up for her match against Israeli judoka Raz Hershko at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

According to a report by MEMRI published on Monday, some Saudis and Palestinians have called on Al-Qahtani to withdraw from the games, though many Saudi journalists and intellectuals online are encouraging her to show up for the match.

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One journalist posted news about Israeli taekwondo athlete Avishag Semberg who won the bronze after defeating a Turkish opponent and said: “A Turkish athlete is allowed to compete with an Israeli, but a Saudi is not.”

Liberal Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad posted on Twitter: “I fervently hope that our Saudi champion will not avoid facing the Israeli judoka in a sporting spirit and let her immediately win [by default]. After all, this is only a sports [match], and Israel will not cease to exist following such a withdrawal. The evil tongues [calling on Al-Qahtani to withdraw] will continue to wallow in the quagmire of evil, whether she withdraws or shows up for the match.”

Othman Al-Omeir, the editor of the news website Elaph, tweeted: “I support Tahani Al-Qahtani, whether she wins or loses. It will be a disgrace [only] if she withdraws.”

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