Former French hurdler Mahiedine Mekhissi has found himself at the center of a storm after comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler in a now-deleted post on social media.
Mekhissi, who is also known for controversial incidents during his athletic career, including pushing a championship mascot and engaging in a fight with a competitor, did not mince words in expressing his stance on the Palestinian side of the conflict and his disdain for Israel's role.
According to News Beezer, Mekhissi wrote,
"Hitler was a boy scout compared to Netanyahu," while also branding the Western world as collaborators. This language is particularly inflammatory given the target of his comparison, and it has sparked widespread condemnation on social media and swift distancing from political figures.
The French sports minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, expressed her shock at such comments, especially in the context of the tragic circumstances. She condemned the catastrophic comparisons as nauseating and far removed from the universal values of peace that sport and the Olympic values he once conveyed to his compatriots are meant to uphold.
Even the mayor of Mekhissi's hometown, Reims, Arnaud Robinet, expressed his dismay, stating,
"To think that this person has worn the French national team jersey. I am ashamed on behalf of my city... what a downfall."
Mahiedine Mekhissi has thrice managed to secure an Olympic medal in the 3000-meter steeplechase, with silver in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and bronze in Rio de Janeiro 2016.
He also has two World Championship bronzes and has won the European Championship gold five times, including once in the 1500 meters. He retired shortly after the new year.