Israeli squash team goes to court to fight world championship ban

The Israel Squash Association (ISA) plans to take the World Squash Federation (WSF) to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if it does not guarantee that Israeli players can participate in the world championships in Malaysia next month.

The Men’s Squash Team World Championship, scheduled for December 7, moved from New Zealand to Malaysia in May, due to COVID-19 restrictions at the original location.

However, Israelis cannot visit Malaysia, and the Squash Racket Association of Malaysia (SRAM) ignored the ISA when it asked about the possibility of receiving special visas so that their players could attend.

When WSF President Zena Wooldridge followed up on the matter, the Malaysian association responded on September 27 that Israelis would not be allowed to participate.

“As you may know, regrettably, there are long-standing sensitivities around the conflict between Israel and Palestine,” wrote SRAM President Gerard Monteiro, adding that Malaysia “could not guarantee [Israeli players’] safety and well-being.

“As it is found all over the world, there are supporters of the conflict who will not hesitate to take extreme measures to show their discontent towards the nation of Israel and its people.”

Wooldridge told the Israelis that he had not yet found a way to allow them to attend the championship in Kuala Lumpur.

A general view of the National Palace of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 25, 2020 (credit: REUTERS / LIM HUEY TENG)

On October 5, ISA President Aviv Bushinsky wrote to WSF Executive Director William Louis-Marie to express the disappointment of the Israeli team.

“On the one hand, we are being explicitly discriminated against and therefore cannot participate,” Bushinsky wrote. “However, on the other hand, if we insist on realizing our basic rights” – to inclusion, according to the statutes of the WSF – “a state that is far from being a squash superpower would lead to the cancellation of the event that is so important. for sport around the world. “

As such, he suggested moving this year’s World Squash Championship to Israel, where all competitors from all nations would be guaranteed equal participation, or to grant Israel the opportunity to host a future championship in the next two years.

SPORT & Culture Minister Chili Tropper appealed to Wooldridge, calling the situation “particularly absurd” in light of the fact that the World Squash Federation invited the Israeli Squash Association to participate and paid all fees and dues. .

“I find it impossible to believe that in this modern age, there is still a place for discrimination, as well as the mixture of political considerations and sport,” wrote Tropper.

The minister noted that in 2019, the International Paralympic Committee canceled the International Swimming Championships due to Malaysia’s refusal to allow Israeli athletes to enter the country. That same year, the International Olympic Committee issued sanctions to the Iranian judo association for not allowing Israelis to participate in the competition they organized. And Qatar has guaranteed that Israeli players and spectators will be able to attend the FIFA World Cup even if the countries do not have diplomatic relations.

“Today, this is a basic criterion for any country that wishes to host any international sporting event, be it chess, football, judo or squash: so that all participants have the same opportunity to participate and show their skills and abilities. sports, “Tropper said. .

“I understand that the WSF has not provided options or courses of action, and that the Israeli association remains on the sidelines, empty-handed and without any solution. As minister of sport of the State of Israel, I would expect the WSF to act in accordance with the norms established and implemented by the rest of the sporting world and to ensure our equitable participation ”.

On Friday, Wooldridge wrote to Tropper that he “welcomes Israel’s entry into this championship,” that the barrier to Israel’s entry “does not sit with the WSF” and “the door is not yet closed.”

“We agree that politics should not interfere to prevent players of any nation from participating,” he wrote, adding that the WSF did not anticipate the difficulty of obtaining visas for the Israeli team.

However, Wooldridge said that in light of the tournament already being moved once, it would be too difficult to move it again on such a short notice, which is why he will continue to work to try to obtain visas for Israeli players.

“It is our duty to fight any attempt to mix politics with sports,” Bushinsky said. “Especially today … any country chosen to host an international sporting event [is] obliged to open its doors to participants without discrimination on grounds of race or politics ”.

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