Diplomacy

Malaysia Denying Visas to Israeli Paralympic Swimmers for World Championship

Malaysia has so far refused to grant visas to an Israeli swimming team, which would allow them to compete in world championships this summer, Jewish News reported Tuesday.

Israeli sports authorities have been attempting to obtain the visas for two months but have gotten no response from the Malaysian government.

More than 600 swimmers from 70 nations are expected to compete in the World Para Swimming Championships scheduled for July. However, the Israel Paralympics Committee fears that the failure of the Malaysian government to provide visas so far signals that the Islamic nation will bar the team from the Jewish State.

Malaysia came under fire in 2015 for excluding Israeli windsurfers from the Youth Sailing World Championships.

“Everyone says it will work out, but we have still not received an invitation or visas. We are continuing to apply pressure,” said Nisim Sasportas, who chairs the Israeli Olympic Committee.

According to Swimming World Magazine, competing in the World Championships is one of the factors that qualifies swimmers to compete in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

Malaysia’s 93-year old Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohammad has a long history of making anti-Semitic remarks. In August of last year, he said, “Antisemitic is a term that is invented to prevent people from criticizing the Jews for doing wrong things.”

Malaysia criticized Australia in November for considering a move of its embassy to Jerusalem, and a month later for recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

It is not uncommon for Muslim countries to bar Israelis from participating in international competitions. But sports governing bodies have started to take action against this manner of discrimination.

Last year, the International Judo Federation suspended the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam event to take a “firm and constructive stance in the fight against discrimination in sport.” The United Arab Emirates that had hosted the competition in 2017 had refused to allow Israeli judoka to wear their nation’s uniform or to play the Israeli national anthem when an Israeli athlete won.

Following the rebuke, the UAE relented. Israeli athletes were allowed to participate under their own flag, in 2018 and, for the first time, Hatikva was played in Abu Dhabi, when Israeli judoka Sagi Maki won the gold medal in his weight class.

[Photo: Zurab Shamatava / WikiCommons ]