WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 18, 2009
A game of
he most shocking thing Like any sports fan, and human
about Israeli tennis player being, I wish we lived in a world
Shahar Peer being denied an where that is possible, but
entry visa into the UAE, is the unfortunately we do not live in
shock that it has created. a John Lennon song, and the
The UAE has no diplomatic reality is very different to that
relations with Israel and even preached by the officials of
visitors to the country are organisations such as FIFA and
advised not to get their WTA. And it wouldn’t be so bad
passport stamped at Israeli if there weren’t so much
immigration points if they want hypocrisy flying around.
to avoid trouble getting in to
the Emirates. Keep politics and sport
This is nothing new. separated?
But now we’re being told that a In 1980, President Jimmy Carter
shadow hangs over the future of announced a US (home of the
the Dubai Tennis Champion- WTA of course) boycott of the
ships following the news that Moscow Olympics for what can
Andy Ram, an Israeli player on safely be said to be political
the ATP circuit, is waiting to reasons. A slew of their cronies
hear if he will be allowed to naturally followed suit.
participate at the Men’s Open Four years later, the equally
next week. reasonable Soviet Union, and
I find it astonishing that the the rest of the hapless Eastern
Women’s Tennis Association Bloc countries, responded by
People who believe politics and sport will ever
(WTA) has reacted with such boycotting the Los Angeles
incredulity over the Peer Olympics. Politics, perhaps?
be separated are chasing an unrealisable
situation, and it is hard to What’s that got to do with Ms
believe that it was not aware of Peer, some might ask?
dream, writes 7DAYS managing editor Ali Khaled
the restrictions on entry of I don’t know her personal
Israelis into the UAE. politics but she happens to
The lazy journalism that has come from a country whose
in the last few days government consistently flouts
consistently referenced international rules and
Peer’s appearance in regulations by organisations
Doha last year supposedly far more important
conveniently ignores than the WTA.
the fact that at that
time Qatar had Stick to sport!
diplomatic ties How about this, then. Since its
with Israel and recognition by FIFA 11 years
consequently no ago, the Palestinian national
visa restrictions football team has had to play its
were in place. ‘home’ matches on foreign soil,
Things have with countless examples of
changed since then Gaza-based players being
and she would refused permission to leave the
probably struggle to territory, never mind entry into
enter any Arab nation a foreign country. Or even the
following the recent West Bank.
assault on Gaza. When the Palestinian team
I have nothing against Ms Peer finally played against Jordan in
as an individual, but find it the Ramallah in October of last
height of insensitivity that she year, many Gaza-based and
is being portrayed as some West Bank-based players were
kind of victim for being denied held up and humiliated at
the opportunity to knock a few checkpoints before finally being
balls around barely weeks allowed to play.
after doctors were being Palestinian players based in
denied entry into Gaza to treat neighbouring Arab countries
dying children. were refused entry visas.
If the UN threatened Israel with One player, Roberto Bishara, a
expulsion from the Security Palestinian who was living in
Council, then I must have Chile at the time, was insulted
missed it. by an Israeli immigration
official who commented “how
Keep politics and sports can you be playing for the
separated we’re being told. Palestinian national team when
there is no Palestine?”.
I would guess that not as many
The organisers of Dubai Tennis Championships said little in people have heard of these
the wake of the news that Shahar Peer had withdrawn other incidents.
than to confirm that fact and that she had not received a Naturally, the officials at FIFA,
visa. But yesterday they broke that silence to issue the like their counterparts at the
following statement: UN, did not even threaten Israel
“The tournament is a long-standing and loyal supporter of with sanctions or expulsion,
women’s tennis and the WTA Tour and respects the rules never mind actually take action.
and regulations of the Tour. And yet now we have to listen
“The tournament also respects Shahar Peer as a profes- to sanctimonious declarations
sional tennis player on the Tour and understands her by the WTA about the future of
disappointment. There were several elements to be the Dubai Women’s Open.
considered concerning her participation: Ultimately, sport does not exist
“Public sentiment remains high in the Middle East and it is in a vacuum. Politics, human
believed that Ms Peer’s presence would have antagonised emotion and life in general will
our fans who have watched live television coverage of always intrude on that dream.
recent attacks in Gaza. Personally I would have no
“Ms Peer personally witnessed protests against her at problem with Shahar Peer or
another tournament in New Zealand only a few weeks ago. Andy Ram playing tennis in
“Concern was raised about her well-being and her presence Dubai if at the same time Israel
triggering similar protests. Given public sentiment, the entire allowed Palestinians to compete
tournament could have been boycotted by protesters. in their sporting events without
“We do not wish to politicise sports, but we have to be interference and humiliation.
NO ENTRY: Shahar sensitive to recent events in the region and not alienate or Generally being treated like
Peer withdrew from the put at risk the players and the many tennis fans of different human beings would also be
tournament after being nationalities that we have here in the UAE.” appreciated.
refused a visa The ball is in your court.
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