Israeli Athletes Harassed in Student Olympics in Moscow
Menu JTA Search

Israeli Athletes Harassed in Student Olympics in Moscow

Download PDF for this date

Mounting harassment that has dogged the 25-member Israeli team participating in the world college student Olympics in Moscow since the games opened a week ago erupted at a basketball game today during which Red Army soldiers ripped two Israeli flags held up by Jewish spectators, according to Jewish sources in the Soviet Union. About 20 Jews were attacked by a crowd as they left the game. Three Jews were arrested and taken to a police station. They were identified as Victor Polsky, 43, his 14-year-old daughter, Marina, and Alexander Yoffe, 16.

The basketball game today in which Israel defeated Puerto Rico 77-61, was played in the small Central Army Club gym. Soldiers, some in uniform and some in sweatsuits, who made up about a quarter of the crowd, jeered and whistled derisively every time the Israeli players had the ball.

Shouts of “Zhyd” (Jew) rang through the gym when a group of Jewish spectators held up a paper flag with a blue Star of David. It was torn from their grasp and ripped by soldiers in uniform. There was another brief scuffle during the second half of the game when uniformed soldiers seated in front of Jews tried to rip another small Israeli flag.

The game was the third in which the Israeli team was the target of apparently organized jeering led by Russian soldiers and cadets who packed the arena. Jewish sources in Moscow said that Jewish ticket holders were barred by militia men from entering the arenas at the earlier games.


Adin Talbar, head of the Israeli delegation, protested the harassment to the International University Sports Federation Sunday. The IUSF granted his request to send a member of its executive committee to “observe that no organized harassment of any kind be allowed.” But no IUSF representative was present at Sunday’s game when Israel played Cuba and none attended today’s game, Talbar said.

(In Amsterdam today, the Dutch “Democrats 1966” Party, a member of the government coalition, appealed to the Netherlands Premier and Foreign Minister to protest to Soviet authorities against the treatment of Soviet Jews and Israeli athletes at the university games.)

According to Jewish sources in the Soviet Union the Israeli athletes are kept under virtual house arrest in the Olympic village. Their telephone is blocked, they are excluded from sight-seeing tours and are not permitted to mingle with the local population. The sources reported that the jeering and epithets hurled at the Israeli competitors at every sports event was obviously organized and orchestrated by Soviet authorities.

They said spectators screamed “Zhyd” at Israeli student track star Yuval Wischnitzer when he took the lead in the 500-meter semi-finals and may have thrown him off stride. Wischnitzer came in second to qualify for the finals to be held tomorrow. Jewish sources expressed fear that larger scale hostile demonstrations would take place at that event.


They said that hostility directed at the Israeli team was evident from the moment the tournament opened last Wednesday. Placards welcoming the Israelis were forcibly removed from Moscow Jews by militia men. Two Jewish women who managed to release balloons with the legend “Welcome Israeli Team” were arrested. They were freed later with a warning not to indulge in any more “hooliganism.”

Another Jew who tried to talk to an Israeli team member was arrested and released after questioning. According to the Jewish sources, the Soviet authorities are determined to prevent any contact between the visiting Israelis and Russian Jews.

Moscow Jews who have tried to contact them by phone were told that the phone wasn’t working. No one is permitted to talk to the Israelis except the official liaison officers appointed by the Russian hosts, the sources said. Jewish activists in Moscow said they feared reprisals against themselves after the games end and the attention of the news media is diverted.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund