Jewish groups call for sanctions over Pe'er snub

Wiesenthal Center dubs tennis competition the "Dubai Apartheid Tournament."

peer teeth 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
peer teeth 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
In response to the United Arab Emirates's refusal to issue a visa to Israeli tennis star Shahar Pe'er, top American Jewish organizations have joined in the chorus of those calling for sporting sanctions against both the UAE and the Barclays Dubai Championships, in which Pe'er was slated to play. In a statement released on Tuesday, Alan Solow, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) to impose sanctions against the UAE. "We find the United Arab Emirates's decision to deny a visa to Ms. Pe'er because of her nationality offensive, discriminatory and unacceptable," the statement said. The Conference of Presidents also called for sanctions against the Dubai tournament. It urged its sponsors, Barclays and Sony Ericsson, to withdraw their support, and that the tennis championships be cancelled in 2010 "unless and until appropriate corrective measures are taken." Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, compared the UAE's actions to the Arab boycott against Israel. "We all hoped this was a thing of the past, especially in regard to sporting events," Hoenlein said. "To discriminate as the UAE did against one player in this way smacks of bigotry and racism," he continued. "This must be declared unacceptable by the WTA and all international sporting associations. As we learned in the past, failure to condemn such actions and take corrective measures proves destructive to international sporting competition." The Association of Tennis Professionals is waiting to hear whether Israeli doubles player Andy Ram will be issued a visa to the UAE, enabling him to play in the Dubai men's tournament, which begins this Monday. In an interview with the BBC, Ram suggested what should be done if he's refused a visa. "Maybe cancel the tournament or sanction them with money or something else," he said. "But something should be done to make sure this situation does not develop again next year." Anticipating a refusal for Ram, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called for Barclays to "immediately drop its sponsorship" of the tennis series "If they're going to bar Israelis, why not just rename it the 'Dubai Apartheid Tournament'?" said Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Wiesenthal Center, in a statement issued Wednesday. "What Dubai is doing is not only harmful to sports, but... an embarrassment to Barclays." When asked about Pe'er and whether Ram will be granted a visa, tournament organizers have cited security concerns due to anger over Israel's recent military operation in Gaza. Hoenlein called this "spurious," adding that a country "that cannot assure the security of all players in a tournament should not be allowed to host it." In its statement, the Conference of Presidents lauded decisions by the Tennis Channel and the European edition of the Wall Street Journal to boycott the tournament. In an interview with The New York Times, Ken Solomon, chairman and chief executive of the Tennis Channel, called the network's move "an easy decision to come by." "Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color or religion," Solomon said. "They are simply about talent. This is a classic case, not about what country did what to another country. If Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision."