(JTA) — The newly elected president of the International Olympic Committee heads a German-based organization that helps companies guarantee that their products do not contain any parts from Israel.
Thomas Bach, a German who was elected Tuesday at an IOC session in Buenos Aires, is chairman of Ghorfa, the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which was set up in the 1970s by Arab countries to boycott trade with Israel.
“It betrays the principles of sportsmanship and fair play for the IOC to be headed by someone who actively participates in ongoing Israel boycott campaign measures,” said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office.
Ghorfa helps German companies ensure that products meet the import requirements of Arab governments, some of which ban products and services from Israel.
The group continues to issue certificates of German origin for trade with Arab countries. Its earlier practice of certificates verifying that no product parts were produced in Israel stopped in the early 1990s when Germany enacted trade regulations forbidding the use of certificates of origin to enable de facto trade boycotts, according to the AJC.
Bach, who most recently served as IOC vice president, won a fencing gold medal in the team foil in 1976 before entering sports marketing and politics. He supported the refusal of the IOC, led by Jacques Rogge, to hold a moment of silence during the 2012 Summer Olympics for the 40th anniversary of the murder of nine Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Games.
Bach’s candidacy came under criticism in Germany in past weeks for its strong support by Arab leaders. But Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Jewish Community of Bavaria and former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement that Bach “stands for central values such as tolerance, fairness — sportsmanship in the best sense of the word — and cosmopolitanism.”
Nine new IOC members also were elected Tuesday, including Bernard Rajzman, a Brazilian Jew. Rajzman, a native of Rio de Janeiro, where the 2016 Summer Olympics will be held, won one gold and one silver medal in volleyball.
He is the president of Brazil’s National Commission of Athletes and a state congressman.