European Muslim Forum delivers letter to IOC asking to veto Israel from Olympic Games. INSIDE THE GAMES

EMF representatives, together with a group of activists, staged a protest at the entrance to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday. The protest was a "call to action" to demand that Israel be banned from the Olympic Games.

People began to gather at the entrance to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, around midday on Saturday 9 March, when the European Muslim Forum (EMF) peaceful demonstration was due to begin. Under the slogan 'No peace, no games', almost a hundred people joined the protest. 

The aim of the demonstration, which took place on Saturday 9 March in front of the IOC headquarters, was, according to the organisers, to express their rejection of the actions of Israel in Gaza and to "raise awareness of the situation in Palestine". 

The choice of this very specific and symbolic location was to "urge the IOC to expel the state of Israel from the International Olympic Movement and more specifically from the Olympic Games" as long as the events and conflict in Gaza continue. The demonstration was open to "the Swiss public and people of good will throughout Europe". 

During the event, the demonstrators took the floor to protest against what the EMF sees as "the inaction of the International Olympic Committee, an insult to the feelings of the world community and a mockery of the Olympic principles laid down by Pierre de Coubertin, who said: 'O Sport, You are Peace'".

The day before the demonstration, on Friday 8, EMF officials sent a personal letter to IOC President Thomas Bach expressing their strongest complaint. They reiterated this stance at the event near the headquarters: "We hope that the Olympic ideals will prevail and that the IOC will consider banning Israel from all sporting events, including the Paris Olympics in 2024. The political games of the current IOC leadership can no longer be tolerated. Double standards are unacceptable in the International Olympic Movement".

EFM members protest outside the IOC headquarters in Lausanne. INSIDE THE GAMES
EFM members protest outside the IOC headquarters in Lausanne. INSIDE THE GAMES

A representative of the EFM, Anna Stamou, was present at the demonstration in Lausanne. She confirmed that their presence there was a protest to "ban Israel's participation in the Olympic Games". Speaking on behalf of the EFM, Stamou said: "It is unacceptable for Israel to take part in sport while Palestinians continue to suffer and die without hope. The failure of the international community to provide adequate humanitarian aid and to enforce a ceasefire is making the situation worse".

The representative confirmed to Inside the Games the delivery of: "a letter to the IOC, addressed to President Thomas Bach, informing them of our intention to demonstrate. We have gathered here from different parts of Europe, including Greece, Denmark, Switzerland... The aim is to raise awareness and call for action".

Stamou added: "We point out that the IOC has more readily banned countries such as the Russian Olympic Committee for its conflict with Ukraine and the Afghan Olympic Committee for restricting women' participation in sport. But what about the Palestinians? It is unacceptable to allow Israel to take part in the Olympic Games under these circumstances". 

The EMF representative went on to say that "the delivery of the letter and the meeting we had with the IOC Communications Director at the IOC headquarters reiterated our demand that Israel be excluded from the Games. That is our request". What took place outside the IOC headquarters in Lausanne is part of a wider campaign launched around the world to hold Israel accountable for its alleged illegal actions and to align international sporting institutions with global calls for justice and peace.

Letter to IOC President Thomas Bach

Dear Mr President,

We, the European Muslim Forum, together with affiliated movements for justice and peace, are writing to you in a final attempt to draw your attention to the ongoing tragedy facing the world in the Middle East. For months, Israel has been committing a series of war crimes against Palestinian civilians. 

The recent decision by the International Court of Justice that the state of Israel must prevent acts of genocide in Gaza is proof that genocide is indeed taking place. Unfortunately, since the ICJ's decision in January 2024, hundreds of civilians have been killed, thousands have been seriously injured and the entire population has been malnourished. 

EFM members delivered their petition to veto Israel to IOC headquarters. INSIDE THE GAMES
EFM members delivered their petition to veto Israel to IOC headquarters. INSIDE THE GAMES

This shows that the State of Israel has absolute contempt for international law and the courts. As a result, the ICJ continues to receive new cases against Israeli actions from numerous countries and organisations. The continuing protests are clear evidence that people, free thinkers from every corner of the world, are demanding justice and peace for Palestine. The world can no longer remain silent.

In the shadow of this tragedy, how can Israel participate in the Olympic Games as a member of the Olympic spirit and ideals? How can the International Olympic Committee tolerate this participation? The history of the Olympic Games has shown us that the IOC has taken drastic measures in various cases of countries whose actions do not correspond to the Olympic ideals.

Let's just mention the two most recent cases: The Russian Olympic Committee was suspended by the IOC in October 2023 because of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Then there is Afghanistan's ban from international sport in December 2022 until women are allowed to practise sport in the country. 

This shows that the IOC is genuinely and deeply concerned about human life, dignity and freedom. It dares to act where conditions demand it. As far as the State of Israel is concerned, this our request to the IOC is that it should be banned from participating in Olympic sports until it complies with international law and accepts a decent future for the Palestinian people. We firmly believe that we share the same ideals. The world looks to the IOC to affirm that humanity can demand peace and justice.

We have the duty and honour to deliver this letter to you on 8 March and we will join the peaceful protest on 9 March together with concerned individuals outside of your facilities. We will raise our voices and people's awareness about the Palestinian tragedy and also expose Israel's inexplicable immunity to act above humanitarian and international laws.

We hope that you will consider our request and take fair and firm action against their participation in the Olympic Games.

Yours sincerely, European Muslim Forum.

IOC and Paris 2024 press conference in Saint-Denis. GETTY IMAGES
IOC and Paris 2024 press conference in Saint-Denis. GETTY IMAGES

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has no plans to sanction Israel before the Paris Olympics over its war in Gaza. "It is out of the question to imagine sanctions (against Israel) at this stage," said Pierre-Olivier Beckers-Vieujan. Some Palestinian activists have called on the IOC to sanction Israel over the Gaza war, as has a group of left-wing French MPs. 

The head of the IOC's Paris 2024 coordination committee said that the Gaza conflict and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, for which Moscow was suspended by the IOC, were "different situations".

"The reasons that led the IOC to sanction first Russia and then the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) are very specific. Russia and more recently the ROC have undermined essential parts of the Olympic Charter. That's not the case with the Palestinian Olympic Committee or the Israeli Olympic Committee... which coexist peacefully. It's clear that these are different situations," he told AFP.

IOC president Thomas Bach subsequently said that Russia had violated the Olympic Charter and the Olympic ceasefire with its invasion, which took place shortly after the Beijing Winter Olympics. Bach said this week: "Israeli athletes will receive special protection during the Paris Games. "Measures will be taken," he said in remarks quoted by the Swiss newspaper 24 Heures.

"The Israelis must feel comfortable during the Games. Everyone must be treated equally, whether in the Olympic village or elsewhere. Everyone must be respected and have a respectful attitude."