Human Rights

Paralympic Committee Strips Malaysia of Hosting Privileges for Barring Israeli Athletes

Malaysia had its right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships stripped by the International Paralympic Committee for its decision to bar Israeli athletes from competing.

“All World Championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination. When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host,” IPC President Andrew Parson said in a statement released Sunday. “The Paralympic Movement has, and always will be, motivated by a desire to drive inclusion, not exclusion. Regardless of the countries involved in this matter, the IPC would take the same decision again if it was to face a similar situation involving different countries.”

The IPC said that when it signed its agreement allowing Malaysia to host the championships, the Asian nation’s government gave its assurances that all athletes from all nations would be allowed to compete. The statement observed that Malaysia subsequently experienced a “change of political leadership and the new Malaysian government has different ideas.”

The IPC statement said that the governing body would seek a new venue that could host the championships at about the same time this coming summer so as not to upset the training schedules of the athletes.

The ban on Israeli athletes is the policy of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who was elected last May.

In August, Mohamad told an interviewer, “Antisemitic is a term that is invented to prevent people from criticizing the Jews for doing wrong things.”

Earlier this month, the Israeli athletes planning to compete in the championships raised concerns that they had not received visas to enter Malaysia.

The following week, Malaysia’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.

The president of FIDE, the international chess federation, recently reiterated his organization’s insistence that Israelis be able to compete in all international tournaments. In December, the FIDE relocated a tournament from Saudi Arabia, because it would not grant visas to Israeli competitors.

[Photo: Shelby L. Bell / Flickr ]