Israel slams Malaysian decision to bar Paralympic athletes

Swimmers from some 70 countries are expected to compete at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in the eastern state of Sarawak from July 29-Aug. 4.

swimming pool under water illustrative (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
swimming pool under water illustrative
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Israel called upon the International Paralympic Committee on Thursday to move the World Para Swimming Championships scheduled for Malaysia in July because the southeast Asian country has refused to let Israelis participate.
“We call upon the International Paralympic Committee to change this wrong decision or change the venue of the event,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev went to the president of the committee with this request.
“This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit,” the Foreign Ministry said. “Israel condemns the decision, inspired no doubt by Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s rabid antisemitism.”
Mohamad has a decades-long history of antisemitic and virulently anti-Israel comments. “Jews rule the world by proxy,” he wrote in a 2012 blog.
In October, during a BBC interview, he described Jews as “hook-nosed.” During the same interview he said that “if you’re going to be truthful, the problem in the Middle East began with the creation of Israel.”
He also said that four million Jews, not six million, were killed in the Holocaust.
Michael Danby, an Australian Labor Party member, condemned Malaysia’s ban on Israeli swimmers, calling Mohamad a “Malay bigot.”
Danby called on Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to host the Paralympics swimmers in Australia instead.
“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.”
Malaysia’s cabinet decided last week that Israelis will not be allowed to enter the country for any event, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said earlier this week.
“Even if we have already committed to hosting an event, they will not be allowed [into the country],” he said in a recording of a press conference heard by Reuters.
“Secondly, Malaysia will not host any event that has representation from or participation of Israel.”
On Monday, AFP quoted the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as saying that it was “disappointed” with Malaysia’s decision to bar the swimmers from entering the country, but hoped to “find a solution” to the matter.
Swimmers from some 70 countries are expected to compete at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in the eastern state of Sarawak from July 29 to August 4.
Malaysia is a majority-Muslim country and among the most anti-Israel in the world.
Thousands in Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia took to the streets last December to protest Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Last month, Mahathir Mohamad criticized Australia’s decision to recognize west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying countries had “no right” to do so.
Saifuddin said that Malaysia will continue to take a strong position on the plight of the Palestinians, which Malaysia considers to be a humanitarian crisis.
“We are looking at the Palestinian issue not simply from the religious point of view... it is a humanitarian, human rights issue,” he said. “It is about fighting on behalf of the oppressed.”
Reuters contributed to this report.