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Israeli squash team goes to court to fight ban from world championship

CM 22/11/2021

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The Israel Squash Association (ISA) plans to take the World Squash Federation (WSF) to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if it does not ensure Israeli players can participate in the world championship in Malaysia next month.
The Men’s World Team Squash Championship, set for December 7, was moved from New Zealand to Malaysia in May, due to COVID-19 restrictions in the original location.
However, Israelis are not able to visit Malaysia, and the Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) ignored the ISA when it inquired about the possibility of receiving special visas so its players could attend.

When WSF president Zena Wooldridge followed up on the matter, the Malaysian association responded on September 27 that the Israelis would not be allowed to participate.
“As you may be aware, there are, sadly, long-standing sensitivities surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict,” SRAM president Gerard Monteiro wrote, adding that Malaysia “would not be able to guarantee [Israeli players’] safety and well-being.
“As is encountered across the world, there are sympathizers of the conflict who will not hesitate to take extreme measures to display their displeasure toward the nation of Israel and her people.”
Wooldridge told the Israelis that she had not yet found a way to enable them to attend the championship in Kuala Lumpur.

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

On October 5, ISA chairman Aviv Bushinsky wrote to WSF CEO William Louis-Marie to express the Israeli team’s disappointment.
“On the one hand, we are explicitly being discriminated against, and therefore, unable to participate,” Bushinsky wrote. “Yet on the other hand, if we insist on realizing our basic rights” – to inclusiveness, according to the WSF’s by-laws – “a state that is far from being a squash superpower would lead to the cancellation of the event that is so important for the sport worldwide.”
As such, he suggested moving this year’s World Team Squash Championship to Israel, where all competitors from all nations would be guaranteed equal participation, or to award Israel the opportunity to host a future championship in the next two years.
SPORT AND Culture Minister Chili Tropper appealed to Wooldridge, calling the situation “particularly absurd” in light of the fact that the Israeli Squash Association was invited by the World Squash Federation to participate and paid all fees and dues.
“I find it impossible to believe that in this modern era, there is still a place for discrimination, as well as the mixing of political considerations and sport,” Tropper wrote.
The minister pointed out that in 2019, the International Paralympic Committee canceled the International Swimming Championship due to Malaysia’s refusal to allow Israeli athletes to enter the country. That same year, the International Olympic Committee issued sanctions on the Iranian judo association for not allowing Israelis to participate in the competition that they hosted. And Qatar has guaranteed that Israeli players and spectators will be able to attend the FIFA World Cup even though the countries don’t have diplomatic relations.
“Nowadays, this is a basic criterion for any country wishing to host any international sports event – whether it be chess, football, judo or squash: to allow all participants the equal opportunity to participate and showcase their skills and sporting abilities,” Tropper stated.
“I understand that the WSF has not provided any options or courses of actions, and that the Israeli association remains left out, empty-handed and devoid of any solution. As the minister of sport for the State of Israel, I would expect that the WSF would act according to the norms set out and implemented by the rest of the sporting world and ensure our equal participation.”
On Friday, Wooldridge wrote to Tropper that it “welcomes Israel’s entry to this championship,” the barrier to Israel’s entry “does not sit with WSF,” and “the door is not yet closed on this.”
“We agree that politics should not interfere to prevent any nations’ players from participating,” she wrote, adding that the WSF did not anticipate the difficulty in 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 short notice, so she will continue working to try to get visas for the Israeli players.
“It is our duty to fight any attempt to mix politics with sports,” Bushinsky said. “Especially nowadays… any country chosen to host an international sporting event [is] required to open its doors to participants without discrimination based on race or politics.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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