Paris 2024 Olympics: Why protesters demand ban on Israel?

The IOC is under scrutiny over silence on demands of banning Israel from the Paris 2024 Olympics while quick sanctions on Russia and Belarus within days over the Russia- Ukraine war.

Pro-Palestinian forces question the IOC's silence on Israel’s Gaza aggression and demand a ban on Israel in the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Protesters at the IOC headquarters in Switzerland. Photo-EMF

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, with hands painted red, gathered outside the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Switzerland on Wednesday, demanding a ban on Israel from competing at the Paris 2024 Olympics amid Tel Aviv’s eight-month-long aggression in the Palestinian territory of Gaza that has killed 37,266 innocent civilians and injured 85,120.

Limiting a country’s participation is not new for the IOC, which claims to promote a peaceful society and preserve human dignity. In 2022, the committee confirmed sanctions on Russia and Belarus over Russia’s special military operations in Ukraine, iterating its solidarity with the latter. 

While this has been the IOC’s stand on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, what has been the IOC’s answer to Israel’s deadly attacks on Palestine? Do the pro-Palestinian protests highlight a real hypocrisy on the IOC’s part, as many argue? 

Pro-Palestinian protests

Since early March, pro-Palestinian protestors have been demanding a total ban on Israel’s participation in the Paris 2024 Olympics as a consequence of Israel’s reckless attack on unarmed civilians of Palestine stuck in the largest open-air prison. 

The European Muslim Forum (EMF), which has been organising the demonstration, wrote a letter to officials of the IOC, urging a total ban on the participation of Israeli athletes in the Paris 2024 Olympics. 

Since the IOC did not communicate anything new, as per the EMF, the protest was repeated on Wednesday as a peaceful call for Israel’s ban that went on for a couple of hours.  

Hundreds of protestors joined the demonstration outside the IOC headquarters with hands painted red, raising slogans to free Palestine and ban Israel from competing with other countries in the Paris 2024 Olympics. 

The videos surfacing on social media show them holding banners stating, “Let’s ban the genocidal Israeli state from the Olympic Games.” They were seen leaving handprints on the entrance, whereas some were lying down on the ground to turn the spotlight on the thousands of civilian lives stolen by the “criminal state” of Israel.

Joining the protest, Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Zwelivelile Mandela, called for the exclusion of Israel from the Paris 2024 Olympics by reiterating the words of his grandfather and former South African president, “Our freedom is incomplete without that of the Palestinian people.” 

People have been actively demanding the banning of the participation of the “terrorist state” as they call it on social media. They have been highlighting Israel’s audacity to ignore the warnings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Criminal Court (ICC) to stop the military offensive at once and continue its regular brutal attacks on Gaza, massacring defenceless men, women and children. 

Several demonstrators pointed out that a country “capable of carrying out a genocide” should not be allowed to participate in the Olympics. The Palestine and MENA information Center posted on X (formerly Twitter), “No Olympic or fair sports for Israel” and compared it with ISIS.

However, no official stepped out to discuss the matter with the protesting masses. 

The IOC’s silence has been raising questions regarding its impartiality and highlighting the absence of consistent principles for upholding peace and delivering fairness, as it had contrasting actions against Russia. 

IOC’s stance on Russia and Belarus

In February 2022, the committee took quick and sharp action against Russia and Belarus by putting sanctions on them within four days of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. On December 9th of the same year, the IOC reinforced and confirmed the sanctions that limited any international sports events to be organised in the countries. 

As per the sanctions, the participants of these countries will compete as neutral athletes. No flag, anthems or other national symbols would be displayed at any international sports events. The sanctions also imply that no government or state officials would be accredited for or invited to any international sports events. 

A political group in the European Parliament, EPP group’s Michael Gahler said, “Russia is an outcast staging an unprovoked, aggressive, illegitimate, illegal war on its neighbouring country, Ukraine.”

Is there partiality?

Notably, the situation of the Ukraine-Russia war is not the same as Israel’s attack on Gaza. Ukraine and Russia, both having their armies, have been at war since 2014. However, there is no Israel-Gaza ‘war’ as Israel has been mercilessly attacking a population of unarmed civilians, which is potentially a genocide. 

People argue, why it’s too complicated now for the IOC to decide on taking action against a recklessly aggressive state, Israel, whose attacks have been leading to massacres, forced displacements of millions of people and causing acute famine and starvation across the Gaza Strip. Contrarily, actions against Russia and Belarus over the war with Ukraine did not seem too complicated to decide on limitations for peace-building. 

Is the IOC’s dual stand on Israel and Russia-Belarussia over their participation in the Paris 2024 Olympics consistent or partial in achieving the goal of Olympism which is “to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,” as the Olympic Charter states?

A journalist interested in national and international news. She aspires to highlight the common people's concerns through human interest stories and deep-dive articles on geopolitics.

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