Abdelrahman Elaraby Dealing with Death Threats for Supporting Palestine After World Cup Win

Egyptian swimmer Abdelrahman Elaraby pulled off a 50 butterfly upset (23.04) against Isaac Cooper, Michael Andrew, and Dylan Carter on Sunday, but the Notre Dame fifth-year found it difficult to celebrate his victory in Athens after facing harassment this week for his support of Palestine.

“I don’t know if I can celebrate this, honestly,” Elaraby said atop the podium after finishing only a tenth shy of his personal-best 22.94 from the 2023 World Championships. “It has been a really mentally tough week for me. I’ve been getting death threats. People have been attacking me all week for supporting Palestine.”

Among Elaraby’s social media posts that enflamed supporters of Israel was a political cartoon that showed the different perceptions of resistance by Palestinians and Ukrainians. The image, which has been around since at least 2022, compares the oppression of Palestine by Israel to the oppression of Ukraine by Russia. Elaraby also shared Instagram stories comparing total Palestinian and Israeli deaths over the past 15 years, and likened the American-backed military response in Gaza to “calling your uncle and his 16 friends who are martial arts experts just because a little kid slapped you at the gym.”

“My family goes to sleep not knowing if someone is going to break into my room, if somebody is going to break into my apartment,” the 23-year-old added. “They have to wonder every time I don’t pick up a call, ‘Is he busy or is someone trying to kill him?’ I don’t know if I should celebrate this or not. My brothers and sisters are being killed in Palestine, and I’m threatened with death just because it’s a cause I’m standing for.”

Last weekend, the Palestinian armed group Hamas launched a brutal assault in Israel that killed at least 1,300 people, including dozens of Americans. Israel responded by dropping thousands of bombs and illegal white phosphorus munitions in the densely populated Gaza Strip while cutting off water, electricity, food, and the flow of humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said 2,670 people in Gaza have been killed and more than 10,000 injured over the past week since Israel began its response to the surprise Hamas attack, including United Nations (UN) workers, paramedics, 10 Palestinian journalists, and more than 700 children.

The UN now says clean water is running out for about two million people living in Gaza, nearly half of whom are children. The situation only appears to be escalating as Israel ordered the evacuation of about a million people from the northern Gaza region with a ground invasion on the horizon. The United States is reportedly attempting to persuade Israel to open a safe passage to let aid in and foreigners out while also trying to broker a similar deal through Egypt’s Rafah crossing, but they have yet to call for a ceasefire.

“The loss of innocent lives in any conflict is a tragedy that should be mourned by all, regardless of their background,” Elaraby wrote on Instagram earlier this week. “I have never condoned or celebrated such losses, as I firmly believe that nothing justifies the suffering of innocent people. War is a tragic reality, and our utmost priority should be to prevent it and protect innocent lives.

“It is disheartening to witness a discrepancy in how individuals are allowed to express their sorrow and empathy,” he added. “Israeli athletes, like their Palestinian counterparts, should have the freedom to mourn the suffering of their own people without facing accusations or labels.”

Elaraby won the ACC title in the 50 free (18.79) last season as a senior at Louisville, the culmination of a remarkable comeback just a year after attempting suicide.

Elaraby isn’t the only Muslim swimmer to face backlash for his support of Palestine amid the current crisis. Tunisian Olympic champion Ahmed Hafnaoui said he has been bullied for promoting a Palestinian emergency relief fund on his Instagram. The fundraiser “strongly condemns all violence against civilians — including the most recent loss of lives” and emphasizes that “all Palestinians and Israelis, regardless of religion or ethnicity, have the right to live in safety and dignity, and to have their fundamental human rights upheld.” That didn’t stop him from experiencing harassment on social media.

“Let me get it very clear for you,” Grand Canyon University sophomore Eli Cohen captioned an image of Hafnaoui’s Instagram page promoting humanitarian aid. “The money is going straight for building rockets and weaponry. You donate to that – you donate to terror.”

Miki Halika, the president of the Israel Swimming Association, wrote letters to World Aquatics urging the global governing body to investigate Elaraby and Hafnaoui for supporting “terrorism and extremist ideologies.” Halika went so far as to call them “a potential threat to our national security.”

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Christopher DeBari
4 months ago

He should not be persecuted because some terrorists carried out an attack. People are so stupid.

Ambert
4 months ago

White phosphorous isn’t controversial. It’s ILLEGAL.

I miss the ISL
4 months ago

Things to remember:

  1. Hamas is horrible and should be denounced by all. Period, the end.
  2. Hamas is NOT Palestine.
  3. Again, The Palestinian government and Hamas are not the same thing.
  4. There is no Palestinian government in Gaza. It is only Hamas. That is their governing body. They were elected in 2006.
  5. The Israeli government has gone way too far in their retaliation campaigns against the PLO or Hamas in the past, and they are now.
  6. This is not an Israel v. Palestine issue. This is a Hamas killing Jewish citizens and then the IDF retaliating. It says in Hamas’s founding charter that one of Hamas’s main goals is to exterminate the Jewish population.
… Read more »

FTW
4 months ago

The Western world needs to denunciate terror. A week ago in Israel, today in Belgium, tomorrow it can be anywhere else. Justifying it as “self defense” is absolutely illogical.

FTW
Reply to  FTW
4 months ago

I can’t believe people are downvoting this. Just means that you are supporting terrorism. Unbelievable

jeff
Reply to  FTW
4 months ago

Probably being downvoted because from your comments, you only seem to be denouncing one side’s killing of civilians and actively not denouncing the other side’s

Last edited 4 months ago by jeff
BeardedSwammer
Reply to  FTW
4 months ago

I mean to be fair, people in the west also have a pretty good good reason to be immensely skeptical of the powers that be throwing around “terrorism” as a reason for xyz, and there’s some disturbing freedom of speech parallels between current events and the early Bush years.

Terrorist like Hamas are a scourge on humanity, but we’ve also seen governments get Orwellian with that word in our lifetimes, and I think people shouldn’t overlook how that has influenced the reactions of many to this.

Tomek
4 months ago

Comparing setting living person on fire to little kid slapping someone in the gym is not fair in my books

Phroggy
4 months ago

If he started his statement by denouncing Hamas and its atrocities, he would be a much more sympathetic figure.

jeff
Reply to  Phroggy
4 months ago

why is the onus only in one direction? I’ve seen multiple people talk about Muslim people not denouncing Hamas, but I have not seen any criticism about people not denouncing the IDF

FTW
Reply to  jeff
4 months ago

denounce IDF for defending its country? it’s literally in the name – Israel DEFENSE forces

jeff
Reply to  FTW
4 months ago

denounce IDF for killing all these civilians

BeardedSwammer
Reply to  jeff
4 months ago

Let’s not pretend like there’s a perfect free flow of information out of Gaza at the moment. Hamas is known to intentionally endanger civilians and relish in the collateral damage that hiding among them causes, they are currently telling civilians in Gaza to stay even though all that accomplishes is endangering their lives, and there’s reports of them actively disrupting evacuations. Information war is a big part of what’s happening and it’s not exactly clear who is responsible directly for all of the crimes we’ve been seeing, and that’s not even getting into the immense moral ambiguity created by an organization like Hamas using human shields.

It’s a lot more complicated than “the IDF is indiscriminately killing civilians”

Last edited 4 months ago by BeardedSwammer
Steve Nolan
Reply to  Phroggy
4 months ago

“he didn’t say the magic words, therefore, I don’t care”

Last edited 4 months ago by Steve Nolan
Marina Del Rey Robert
4 months ago

Terrible. Kudos to him. Free Palestine. Israel’s original sin of 1948 ethnic cleansing and it’s illegal settlements and pogroms of Palestinians for so many decades is a human rights failure. Israel is the UN designated Apartheid state after all.

FTW
Reply to  Marina Del Rey Robert
4 months ago

Tell me what is Apartheid and how does Israel belong to that category?

Tomek
Reply to  Marina Del Rey Robert
4 months ago

Can you please list the wars in the region that Israel started?

livingintherealworld
Reply to  Tomek
4 months ago

Who starts a war when we’ve all gotten so good at history that we can trace the aggrievances against our side back thousands of years?

In the Six-Day War, Israel invaded Egypt when Egypt put Israel UNDER A SIEGE, BLOCADING ALL MARITIME ROUTES. Sound familiar? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 Arabs died, less than 1,000 Israelis died.

But who started it? The country that fired the first bullet? Or the country that thought it was justified in firing that bullet?

It’s a chicken-and-the-egg scenario with no real answer.

Bud
Reply to  livingintherealworld
4 months ago

That’s nonsense and a pure lie. Israel had substantial intelligence that Egypt, Jordan and all the surrounding countries were about to declare war to destroy it and decided to attack Egypts Air Force bases as a means of prevention.

livingintherealworld
Reply to  Bud
4 months ago

Sure great. But then we can always play that game, right? Netanyahu’s actions sure could make Hamas feel like Israel was about to start a war with them…

Samir bjor
Reply to  Tomek
2 months ago

6 day war was started when israel engaged operation focus in 1967

Everybody
4 months ago

Palestine and hamas are two separate things. Just saying.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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