Today, Israeli Tal Flicker won Gold in Judo at the Grand Slam competition in Abu Dhabi. In contravention of the rules and explicit directives of the International Judo Federation, Flicker and all other Israeli athletes in the tournament were forbidden to compete under the Israeli flag. Thus, when Flicker ascended the winners podium, not only was his flag not displayed, but the organizers refused to play the Israeli national anthem, substituting instead the anthem of the International Judo Federation.
And so Flicker quietly sang the Israeli anthem, HaTikvah, himself.
Wow. Israeli wins gold in Judo in Abu Dhabi, which refuses to show Israeli flag or play its national anthem. So he sings it quietly himself. pic.twitter.com/EuJbcP4wTu
— (((Yair Rosenberg))) (@Yair_Rosenberg) October 26, 2017
Flicker’s moment of dignified defiance in the face of bigotry quickly shot across social media, drawing plaudits from everyone from West Wing and Scandal actor Josh Malina to Ruth Davidson, the head of Britain’s Scottish Conservatives:
Tal Flicker — badass. https://t.co/MEAPUUW5jZ
— 🌎Seasonal Scaryname🌎 (@JoshMalina) October 26, 2017
Unbelievably dignified in a really horrible situation. https://t.co/2UJOZLndXt
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonMSP) October 26, 2017
“Israel is my country, and I’m proud to be Israeli,” Flicker told Israel’s Channel 2 news after the event. “The anthem that they played of the world federation was just background noise. I was singing HaTikvah from my heart.”
“I’m proud of my country,” he said. “The whole world knows that we’re from Israel, knows who we represent. The fact that they hid our flag, it’s just a patch on our flag.”
This was far from the first time that Israeli athletes, and in particular Judokas, had faced discrimination in sporting competitions. Most recently, at the Rio Olympics in 2016, an Egyptian Judoka refused to shake the hand of Or Sasson after the Israeli bested him. (Sasson would take home the Bronze medal.) And at the same Olympics, Lebanese athletes prevented Israel’s team from boarding the bus that the two were supposed to share.