No, there is nothing ‘Israeli’ about Jordan’s gold medal olympian

A number of Israeli websites preferred to forget the fact that Palestinian-Jordanian olympian Ahmad Abu Ghosh’s family comes from a village conquered by Zionist forces in 1948.

Jordanian-Palestinian olympian Ahmad Abu Ghosh who won the gold medal in Taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics. (Salem Khamis/CC BY-SA 4.0)
Jordanian-Palestinian olympian Ahmad Abu Ghosh who won the gold medal in Taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics. (Salem Khamis/CC BY-SA 4.0)

How much nonsense can go into a single news item? The answer is, unfortunately, a lot. Nothing has angered me recently quite like an article published by the news site Virtual Jerusalem with the following headline: “Palestinian with Israeli Roots Wins Jordan’s First-Ever Olympic Medal.”

That Palestinian olympian is Ahmad Abu Ghosh, 20, who was born in the Al-Nasser refugee camp to a Palestinian family from the village of Abu Ghosh (which according to the article is “known for its hummus restaurants and convenient location on the main road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv”). According to the article, Abu Ghosh has Israeli roots because his family comes from a village conquered by Israel in the 1948 War.

Furthermore the article claims that the village is located in an area that launched “attacks that killed hundreds of Jews” during the war, and thus the villagers were threatened with expulsion. But following public pressure and protest by leftist and rightist Israelis, the residents were allowed to return to their homes (thank you very much!) This is how the village, which collaborated with the Zionist forcers, turned into a culinary powerhouse and an island of coexistence between Jews and Arabs (how many Jews actually live there?)

What this and a number of other articles fail to mention is that a large number of families from Abu Ghosh became refugees in 1948, lost all their property, and lived in refugee camps in Jordan. Ahmad Abu Ghosh’s family left the village by choice and followed their family members to a Palestinian camp. Not exactly “immigration” in the traditional sense of the word, and not something that represents a strong connection to Israeli identity.

If Israel wants a gold medal so badly, take it and give back Ahmad his Jordanian identity. Better to continue being a Palestinian refugee with Jordanian citizenship than an Israeli who is unaware of his roots and denies his Israeli identity, no?

Now with the end of the Olympics, and in the wake of Israel’s tepid successes there, the Jewish state should start considering a new route if it wants to get the gold. Here are two options:

The first is to force olympic champions to make aliyah from the United States, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Britain, and Germany.

The second way is to start investing in athletes here, instead of spending millions upon millions on ‘hasbara’ initiatives and complaining about racism, anti-Semitism, and persecution. Look around and see how two immigrants from Kenya brought Bahrain a gold and silver medal, respectively.

Most Western delegations include athletes of different shades and with different roots. Sorry if I come off as cliché, but an American woman with a hijab won a medal for fencing. Perhaps it is time, then, that Israel give a chance for its asylum seekers, refugees, and foreign workers to excel at sports?

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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