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Minneapolis stands with Palestine, demands Israel be banned from Olympics

By Brian Chval

Protest at U.S. gymnastics trials calls for banning apartheid Israel from Olympics.  | Staff/Fight Back! News

Minneapolis, MN – On Friday, June 29, as Olympic trials for gymnastics were being held at Target Center, 85 people gathered at a rally organized by the Minnesota Anti-War Committee to demand that Israel be banned from the Olympics due to its genocide against the people of Palestine.

The crowd was received warmly by many passersby on foot and in cars as they used drums, whistles, chants, and speeches to make themselves heard.

“We don’t believe that a country that is currently executing a genocide and maintaining an apartheid state should be allowed to compete in the Olympic games,” explained Trent Fast, a member of the Anti-War Committee. “We are answering the call from over 300 Palestinian-led sports clubs, youth centers, and civil society organizations to support their demand that the IOC apply its principles and fulfill its obligations by banning Israel from the Olympic Games to be held in Paris next month.”

Seeking to educate and bring awareness to those attending, speakers at the event stressed that the Olympics are not an apolitical spectacle, but a stage of international prestige and validation. In observance of this responsibility, the charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) states that “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” By that principle, South Africa was barred from participation for nearly 30 years due to its apartheid regime.

Israel being allowed to compete reflects the international community’s refusal to hold it accountable, while Palestine is struggling to even field athletes for competition due to the widespread death and destruction of its athletes and athletic facilities in Israel’s genocidal rampage. “Since October, over 300 professional athletes and sports officials have been killed in Gaza, and 42 sports facilities have been completely destroyed,” Anti-War Committee speaker Brandon Veal pointed out, “which amounts to every single one of them in the Gaza strip.”

Another member of the Anti-War Committee, emcee Ruby Arnone, highlighted the deaths of Majed Abu Maraheel, Palestine’s first Olympic athlete, and Nagham Abu Samra, a Palestinian karate champion hoping to compete in the 2024 games. Both died because Israel’s siege on Gaza prevented them from receiving medical care – Majed for kidney failure and Nagham for injuries sustained in an Israeli airstrike that killed her sister.

Their deaths are two of over 40,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza over the last nine months. As Arnone put it, “Each week we hear of Israel carrying out massacre after massacre, torture and kidnapping, all punctuating the slow and deliberate campaign of starvation and medical neglect that kills children and adults just as surely as a bomb or bullet.”

Speaking for American Muslims for Palestine, Abdullah Mohammed drove the message home, “The Olympic games are a ‘celebration of human spirit and unity, transcending borders and conflict.’ However, allowing a nation that perpetuates such systemic oppression and violence to participate undermines these very principles. The story of Majed and countless others in Gaza highlights the dire need for the international community to take a stand.”

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