Diplomacy

Malaysia Doubles Down, Banning Israeli Athletes from Competing at Paralympic Event

Having failed to issue visas for Israeli athletes to compete in the World Para Swimming Championships this summer, the Malaysian government has doubled down and issued a ban on having Israelis participate in any event hosted by the country, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The Asian nation’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said that the cabinet decided that Israelis will be barred from all events hosted by Malaysia.

“Even if we have already committed to hosting an event, they will not be allowed (into the country),” Abdullah said at a press conference.

“Secondly, Malaysia will not host any event that has representation from or participation of Israel.”

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) issued a statement saying that it was “bitterly disappointed” with the Malaysian government’s stance to bar Israel from the Para Swimming Championships, or any other sporting event hosted by that country. The statement declared that world championships should be “open to all eligible nations and athletes.” It added that the committee would explore “all options” to “ensure the full participation of all eligible athletes.”

MP Michael Danby of Australia’s Labor Party called Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad a ”Malay bigot,” and criticized the IPC for not taking away hosting rights from Malaysia.

“The IPC has no right awarding premium sporting events to Malaysia and other countries that discriminate against Israeli athletes,“ Danby said. “Taking out your anti-Jewish bigotry on Paralympic athletes is pathetic.”

“Blatant antisemitism and discrimination in sport, as in every field of life is despicable, and Malaysia has no right to be hosting such a premium event,” Danby added. He called on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to offer an alternate venue, one in which “swimmers of all faiths and nationalities will be welcome to attend, without discrimination, including both Malaysians and Israelis.”

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.

Last month, FIDE, the international governing body of chess, canceled a chess tournament in Saudi Arabia, after that nation barred seven Israelis from competing in a December 2017 tournament.

[Photo: ABC News (Australia) / YouTube ]