Israel’s supporters in the UK have called on the Malaysian High Commissioner to the UK to let disabled Israeli swimmers take part in a tournament in the city of Kuching this summer.
More than 1,300 people had signed an online petition by Tuesday afternoon urging the country to reverse its decision to deny entry to Israeli athletes for the World Para Swimming Championships due to be held at the end of July.
The tournament is a qualifying event for the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020 but although swimmers from 70 countries are set to take part, the Israelis have been denied entry for political and diplomatic reasons.
Supporters signing a petition set up by We Believe in Israel told High Commissioner H.E. Dato’ Ahmad Rasidi Bin Hazizi that it was “blatant discrimination against citizens of the world’s only Jewish state” and contrary to the fundamental principles of Olympism, whereby sport is deemed a human right, regardless of race or religion.
“We call on Malaysia to reconsider this totally inappropriate decision and call on the International Paralympic Committee and World Para Swimming to relocate the Championships if Malaysia continues to politically abuse its role as host nation by barring the Israeli swimmers from participating,” they wrote.
Organisers of the petition said more than 90 percent of the signatories were based in the UK, and the UK Lawyers for Israel group said it was also looking into the matter.
In a recent briefing note, UKLFI addressed this subject, saying: “International and national sports organisations usually have rules requiring participants to be treated with respect and without discrimination. However, for many years, these rules have often been ignored in relation to the rights of Israelis.
“Israeli participants have had to put up with players from many Arab and other Muslim countries refusing to play with them and with not being admitted into these countries to play in tournaments, or being admitted on condition that they are not recognised as Israelis.”
During an international badminton championship in Ukraine last year, Saudi players refused to play against an Israeli player and walked off court. While the Badminton World Federation is based in Malaysia, officials nevertheless examined a subsequent complaint and later banned the Saudi pair from all tournaments for six months.
The British Paralympic Association (BPA) said it “is aware that Israeli athletes have not yet received confirmation that they will be able to attend the World Para Swimming Championships in Malaysia. We know that the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the relevant parties are engaged on the issue and hope that the situation is soon resolved so that all eligible athletes will be able to compete at the event later this summer.”