Jerusalem – Moments after her moving victory in the world junior chess championship, Marcel Efroimsky of Kfar Saba, Israel, stood proudly at the podium as the new world champion. She grasped her silver cup, stole another glance at the gold medal around her neck, and expected the Israeli national anthem to be played in the background, as is customary in every competition. But silence filled the air. An irksome silence.

Ms. Efroimsky, 14, comes from a dynasty of chess masters. She began playing at the age of 6 and at 9 competed in her first world championship. Her dream came true when she won the first place in the world championship for players ages 14 and under, which was held in Turkey, but was very disappointed when the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikva,” was not played, as the winning country’s national anthem customarily is.

“This is simply a scandal,” fumed Shai Efroimsky, the new champion’s father. “How dare they mix politics with sports? The rules explicitly say that the national anthem is to be played. And that was the case two years ago as well, when she won the championship for girls up to the age of 12 that was held in the same location in Turkey.”

Indeed, two years ago Ms. Efroimsky won the championship for girls aged 12 and under, held in Turkey, and she became the first Israeli girl to do so. At that time, before relations between Ankara and Jerusalem had deteriorated, the Israeli national anthem was played.

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But, this time the competition ended in a very different way. The medals were handed out, the trophy was presented to Ms. Efroimsky and, after the speeches, the organizers suddenly decided not to play the national anthems of the countries from which the award-winners hailed. The exception was the Russian national anthem, after Russia won the largest number of awards in the various competitions that were held. This is the second incident in the space of a week in which Israel’s national anthem was not played despite the fact that an Israeli won first place.

The organizers claimed in their defense that they had been forced to shorten the ceremony and that was the reason why the national anthems were not played, but officials involved in the competition said they suspected that the Turks’ intentions had been clear-to refrain from playing the Israeli national anthem. “I suspect that this was a specific move against Israel,” said Mr. Efroimsky.

In the wake of the incident last night, Aviv Bushinsky, the chairman of the Israeli Chess Association, sent a telegram to the president of the World Chess Federation with a request that he investigate the incident. Mr. Bushinsky wrote that steps ought to be taken against the Turks if it should become evident that the decision to refrain from playing the national anthem was deliberate.

Hatikva Not Played At

Fencing Championship

Precisely one week ago Daria Sterlinkov, of Israel, won the gold medal in a prestigious fencing competition in Austria, while Alona Komorov won the bronze medal. However, in this case, too, the Israeli national anthem was not played upon the conclusion of the ceremony at which the awards were handed out.

The Israeli team coach, Yaakov Federman, said that the person responsible for playing the national anthems told him they were unable to find the Israeli national anthem.

“So, we decided to take the initiative and all the members of the delegation, 22 in number, sang Hatikva ourselves,” said Mr. Federman, who added that this was not the first time that an incident of this sort has happened. “Five months ago in Sweden we had the same story,” he said.

Yesterday, a moving ceremony was held at the Ort Maalot school in honor of the pupils Ms. Sterlinkov and Ms. Komorov, and in honor of the teacher at the school, Yaakov Federman, their professional coach. “We decided not to be silent over the Austrian decision to ignore playing the national anthem of the first place winner and that is why we held a ceremony at the school, in the course of which the Israeli national anthem was played proudly,” said the school’s principal, Avi Manshes.

“The Austrian ambassador was also invited to the ceremony, but he did not attend and sent a letter of apology about what happened in Austria as well.” The ceremony was conducted with the blessing of Dr. Orna Simhon, the director of the Israel Education Ministry’s northern district

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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