Stay Golden, Stay True to Yourself

Islam El Shehaby reusing to shake hands with Or Sasson, after losing.

Hello Or Sasson,

From the perspective of a Palestinian and within the wider context of the Palestine-Arab-Israel conflict, please don’t take it personally.

It truly is sad that you were rebuffed and your Egyptian opponent’s behavior was certainly immature. However, please keep in mind the power dynamics.

Israel is seen by many Arabs and any number of international folks as the oppressor, the hawk, the aggressor with the expansionist agenda. Egyptians, generally speaking, are pro-Palestinian and are extremely nationalist; they do have a very rich history. We all know the history between Egypt and Israel and the current conditions of each of the two countries (Israel is in better shape, in case you are wondering.)

I’m guessing his decision to rebuff was mostly to impose a sense of power over you. I also believe he made that decision to avoid the wrath of closed-minded Arab (and non-Arab) individuals and institutional representatives. Also, if you allow me to stereotype, the dude is rocking a pretty fundamentalist look (I’m noticing a beard and a Hassan-from-the-Taliban haircut) so there could have been an extremist religious aspect to his decision as well. Or, he may have just simply been a sore loser.

So, on behalf of all Arab athletes, I apologize to you and to the Olympics in general. As a Palestinian I am very sensitive to collective persecution; that is exactly the kind of behavior Palestinians condemn regarding Israeli policies, military actions, and settler violence.

For what it’s worth, I believe if Israelis begin to acknowledge the Palestinians’ great and deep sense of loss, and if the Palestinians begin to acknowledge the Israelis’ righteous sense of fear from being persecuted worldwide, I am certain that powerful and impactful healing will begin instantly.

Peace + love fellow human.

p.s. I worked for many years in Palestine and I joined many Palestinian businesswomen and businessmen (some of whom were bearded and had similarly sexy Hassan haircuts.. the men, not the women.) None of these men were closed-minded. In fact, most of them were extremely warm and we made trips to Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv to attend trainings and seminars held by Israeli trade experts. The experiences were always thrilling; I wish, Mr. Sasson, that you had seen how excited the Israelis and Palestinians were to exchange information and learn from each other (breaking the ice did take a bit of time, nevertheless.) People just want to live and be dignified; there is good in this world, I believe.