Israel and international sporting: A new wave?

Even after the embarrassment of being disqualified from hosting such an uplifting international event, Malaysian officials were unrepentant and stood firm in their resolute hatred for Israel.

swimming pool under water illustrative (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
swimming pool under water illustrative
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
It’s unfortunately a much-too-rare occurrence in today’s volatile global climate surrounding anything to do with Israel – but sometimes clear heads prevail, politics are put aside and the right decision is made.
That’s what happened Sunday when the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) barred Malaysia from hosting the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships because the multi-cultural Asian country said that it would not let Israeli athletes participate.
In a victory of values over hatred and bigotry – as Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon put it following the decision – an IPC statement blamed Malaysia for failing “to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination and safely in the championships.”
The competition was due to be held in Kuching between July 29 and August 4 as a qualifying meet for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Around 600 swimmers from 60 nations were expected to take part with more than 160 world titles up for grabs.
Even after the embarrassment of being disqualified from hosting such an uplifting international event, Malaysian officials were unrepentant and stood firm in their resolute hatred for Israel.
Malaysia’s New Straits Times quoted Sports Minister Syed Saddiq bin Syed Abdul Rahman as saying that the Malaysian government has no regrets about its decision.
“If hosting an international sporting event is more important than standing up for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who get murdered, maimed and tortured by the Netanyahu regime, that means Malaysia has truly lost its moral compass,” said Syed Saddiq, according to the paper. He then pointed out that organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an “active perpetrator of war crimes.”
As Herb Keinon pointed out in these pages, it was highly ironic that Syed Saddiq cited Human Rights Watch to blast Israel.
In a 2017 report on human rights in Malaysia, the organization wrote that there are limitations on freedom of speech in Malaysia; that the country “continues to detain individuals without trial under restrictive laws”; that “human rights defenders continue to face legal attacks and arbitrary restrictions on their rights”; that “police torture of suspects in custody – in some cases resulting in deaths – continues to be a serious problem, as does a lack of accountability for such offenses”; that “Malaysian authorities regularly prosecute individuals who hold peaceful assemblies without giving notice or participate in ‘street protests’”; and that “discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is pervasive in Malaysia.”
But the phenomenon of countries with blatantly appalling human rights records attempting to shift the focus onto Israel is nothing new. And, unfortunately, some of the victims of this tactic have been Israeli athletes.
As we wrote last week when Malaysia first banned the Israeli swimmers, discrimination of Israeli athletes is something we have sadly seen before. Israelis are often treated like no other nationals. They are forced to hide their nationality; do not get their national anthem “Hatikva” played when they win gold medals; and do not have their flag raised like that of other nations at international sporting events.
In July, the International Judo Federation canceled two tournaments – the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and the Tunis Grand Prix – due to restrictions that were unfairly placed on Israelis. Those restrictions were ultimately lifted, and one Israeli judoka went on to win a gold medal.
Hopefully, that bright spot along with the IPC decision will begin to shift the tide of international sporting events being held hostage by Arab and Islamic countries. Fight Israel at the UN, at The Hague or on the battlefield – but leave the athletes out of it. We commend the IPC for taking that stand and call on all other athletic bodies to do the same.
Now that Malaysia has been dismissed as the host, the IPC is checking out alternate venues to hold the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships. Wouldn’t the ultimate payback for Kuala Lumpur’s outrageous behavior and antisemitic attitude toward Israel be for the prestigious event to take place in the Jewish state? That would surely be a splash in the face of Malaysia’s leaders – and any country that discriminates against Israeli athletes.