A debate on social media is raging over whether Saudi judoka Tahani Al-Qahtani should show up for her match against Israeli judoka Raz Hershko at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

According to a report by MEMRI published on Monday, some Saudis and Palestinians have called on Al-Qahtani to withdraw from the games, though many Saudi journalists and intellectuals online are encouraging her to show up for the match.

One journalist posted news about Israeli taekwondo athlete Avishag Semberg who won the bronze after defeating a Turkish opponent and said: “A Turkish athlete is allowed to compete with an Israeli, but a Saudi is not.”

Liberal Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad posted on Twitter: “I fervently hope that our Saudi champion will not avoid facing the Israeli judoka in a sporting spirit and let her immediately win [by default]. After all, this is only a sports [match], and Israel will not cease to exist following such a withdrawal. The evil tongues [calling on Al-Qahtani to withdraw] will continue to wallow in the quagmire of evil, whether she withdraws or shows up for the match.”

Othman Al-Omeir, the editor of the news website Elaph, tweeted: “I support Tahani Al-Qahtani, whether she wins or loses. It will be a disgrace [only] if she withdraws.”


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