While 105,000 people participated in the march against anti-Semitism in Paris this Sunday, November 12, few athletes were present. Paralympic tennis champion Michaël Jeremiasz reacts on Franceinfo.
Athletes are not “not up to what is happening in the world today”, estimated Sunday on franceinfo in the Club Info show Michaël Jeremiasz, former number 1 in wheelchair tennis, Paralympic doubles tennis champion in Beijing in 2008 and head of the French delegation to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, after the demonstration against the anti-Semitism that took place in Paris. Michaël Jeremiasz regrets that few athletes took part in the march but that does not “don’t surprise”. “We cannot say that the world of sport is particularly courageous.” He is waiting for sports personalities “to have a message of fraternity, of solidarity when tragedies of any kind occur.”
Franceinfo: There were few athletes present in the demonstration against anti-Semitism in Paris this Sunday. Does this surprise you?
Michael Jeremiasz: No, that doesn’t surprise me, but it’s not specific to athletes. This is specific to public figures. What is happening in the Middle East is a subject that has always been very divisive. There is still anti-Semitism that has existed since the dawn of time and at the slightest pretext, it resurfaces. What is terrifying, when I talk about the silence of athletes, is that there were many more of them, and rightly so, to denounce the response of the Israeli government and rightly criticize it, with all the thousands of deaths. innocent following the attacks of October 7. But where were they to mourn with us what happened in these terrorist attacks of October 7? That’s what bothers me. And this is not unique to the world of sport. But sport is no exception. We often wrongly believe that sport is exempt from all that, the Olympic and Paralympic values, the values of sport, solidarity, fraternity. This is not completely true. How many times have Israeli athletes been boycotted by their opponents because they are Israeli? So that clearly shows that there is a problem. And today, it is unacceptable to see that, because there is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is exploding and destroying lives, there will be repercussions in France and elsewhere in the world because there is a anti-Semitism. It must be said and it must be condemned. We must fight against it, while continuing to want peace, to want two independent states, to want a world in which we can live with our neighbors. But there are steps, essentials. We are not up to par with what is happening in the world today.
Why do you think athletes mobilize very little?
It’s not so much on this topic. Generally speaking, we cannot say that the world of sport is particularly courageous. I’m not making generalizations. There are some. Lilian Thuram was at the demonstration and signed an op-ed in the newspaper La Tribune to fight against anti-Semitism. There is obviously also Richard Dacoury with whom we are working on the organization of a memorial trip to raise awareness in the world of sport. It was to take place on November 26, well before the attacks of October 7, and it was pushed back to January 14. But overall, we have expectations from personalities from the world of sport, from public figures who have influence with the young generation on social networks, who today are a danger like never before with false information, manipulation and who work towards everything except living in peace and happiness with their neighbor. I have expectations of personalities who have a platform. At the very least, to have a message of peace, to have a message of fraternity, of solidarity when tragedies of any kind are happening. We don’t have to be committed. Nobody is forcing us to do it. But I think that at some point, we have a form of responsibility on this subject as on many others. I wouldn’t say that there is anti-Semitism in sport more than elsewhere, but it exists. And we tend to trivialize it a little. This is why this walk today was particularly important.
Do you sense any reluctance among athletes to get involved?
This memorial trip that we are organizing with a working group in partnership with the Crif (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France), is a non-community trip to raise awareness of our history, which is not only the history of the Jews . This is the history of humanity, what happened during the Second World War. It’s not easy to find sports personalities. As if it were the subject par excellence, divisive, which frightens or which we do not accept. Or because there is the conflation with Israeli policy, with the Netanyahu government, with colonization, which many of us have condemned for a very long time. This means that we can condemn this with all our strength, but that it will never justify anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews. And that these athletes and others are incapable of telling the difference poses a real problem for me. I don’t know the deep origins. But I would like us to be a bit of a driving force on these subjects. And not just about anti-Semitism. On racism, on obscurantism, negationism, ignorance in general.
Generally speaking, we see a lot more Anglo-Saxon athletes getting involved. In France, this is rarely the case. How do you explain it?
There is perhaps historically a contempt for the athlete’s words, that the athlete must run behind a ball, kick a yellow ball or do what he knows how to do well and ‘we don’t expect it elsewhere. But no, there is no reason. A sports personality is someone who is in contact with others, not only at the national or international level. These are people who encounter different cultures all year round, all their lives. So we have a word. And today we must exercise it. We have a voice to express. But, but those are the expectations I have. We talk about sensitivity, we talk about humanity, we talk about nothing more than that ultimately.
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