One Jewish and one Arab boxer from the Maccabi Jerusalem Boxing Club will visit France from September 5–9 to promote coexistence between Jews and Arabs and combat defamation of Israel. The visit is being sponsored by IMPACT: the Israel, Mobilization, Promotion and Action, a secular Zionist youth group, and Tous Avec Nous (All With Us), a lobbying body that works to combat anti-Israeli sentiment and promote coexistence.
Nour Rabiat, an Israeli Arab, and Solal Darmon, an Israeli Jew, will visit Paris and tour French high schools, before a non-professional competition in cooperation with the French Boxing Federation.
"A common cliché in France about Israel is that apartheid is king, and Jews and Arabs are never on equal footing," said Alexandra Glanz, President of IMPACT and organizer of the project. "The Maccabi Jerusalem Boxing Club welcomes people from all neighborhoods of Jerusalem, without regard to social or ethnic background or sexual orientation.
"This is thus a perfect example that Israel is a country where coexistence and friendship between Israeli Arab and Jews is possible and encouraged, especially in Jerusalem, where tensions are often higher than in other cities of Israel," Glanz told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
"It is a very positive initiative," said Gregory Luxemburg, boxing coach at the Jerusalem club. "We want to show the world that there is coexistence in our club, to refute what is being reported in foreign media and to present our different picture of Israel, especially of Jerusalem. Fighting only takes place in the ring."
Members of the Jerusalem Boxing Club, IMPACT and All With Us agreed that sport provides a platform for individuals and communities to overcome political and religious differences and reduce tension. "The respect that reigns between the boxers in the club it transcends the violence of the sport itself," added Glanz.
"The purpose of this event is to highlight Israeli democracy and put lie to claims of Israel as an 'apartheid state,'" said Boaz T. Gasto, head of All With Us organization.
The notion of an "apartheid state," describes South Africa's system of racial segregation and preferential treatment for whites over the non-white majority. The system was dismantled in the early 1990s and abolished in 1994. The comparison has been made by scholars, United Nations investigators, human rights groups critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, especially by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The comparison is particularly common in France. For example, a petition filed last January against an anti-BDS court order in Toulouse has gathered more than 18,000 signatures to date.
"The 'apartheid state' perception the French people have of Israel stems from a general ignorance about the country, the complexity of its history, the richness of the culture, and the diversity of its society," said Alexandra Glanz to TPS. "It also originates from a deep misunderstanding of what apartheid really was and racial segregation.
"People's opinions are thus driven by what is reported in the media, social networks or active groups lobbying against Israel, trying to delegitimize its existence," she concluded.
Gasto added, "This event, along with other similar projects, will allow communities and Jewish media to counter hate speech with irrefutable arguments."
Article reprinted with permission from TPS