Jewish leaders praise decision to stop Malaysia hosting World Para Swimming Championships over Israeli athlete ban

Decision is praised as 'a defeat for antisemites'


Politicians and Jewish leaders have welcomed the decision to strip Malaysia of the right to host a major international swimming competition after refusing to allow Israeli athletes to compete.

After a meeting in London on Sunday, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said guarantees had not been offered by the country’s home ministry over visas or the use of anthems and flags at the World Para Swimming Championships.

The IPC said the Malaysian Government - led by antisemitic Prime Minister Mahathir Bin Mohamad who was elected last year - had reneged on "assurances that all eligible athletes and countries would be allowed to participate in the event with their safety assured".

Mr Mohamad has a history of antisemitic statements and told the Oxford Union earlier this month he had a right to speak "against the Jews".

Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson said his organisation applauded the “firm and decisive action taken by the IPC” and added that “discrimination in sport has no place”.

MP Joan Ryan, the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said she “strongly welcomed" the IPC’s decision.

"In a defeat for antisemites, [the IPC has] made clear that singling out the world’s only Jewish state will not be tolerated," she said.

"Malaysia should not be allowed to host international events, sporting or otherwise, until it reverses its policy of discriminating against Israelis.”

Labour’s Tom Watson – who had led calls for Malaysia to be stripped of the right to host the swimming qualifying event – called it: "A sad but necessary decision.”

Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: “Malaysia’s Prime Minister continues to heap shame upon his office for his overtly racist comments against Jews.

“It is a pity for ordinary Malaysians that their Prime Minister’s bigotry has deprived them of the opportunities Championships present.

“We hope that, wherever their new home, the Championships will be a tremendous, inclusive and sporting success.”

The Foreign Office told the JC last week that the proposed ban on Israelis was “fundamentally wrong” after Mr Watson said a new host must be found if Malaysia persisted with it.

The JC can also reveal that Countdown host Rachel Riley sent a speech to be read out at a planned protest outside the IPC meeting in London on Sunday, organised by the Zionist Federation before the IPC reached its decision.

In her speech, now published on the ZF website, she said: “Malaysia’s leader has cited ‘humanitarian grounds’ as to why he’s denying Israeli athletes’ entry to the games... much media coverage has focused on ongoing problems in Israel/Palestine to add weight and ballast to his claims.

“Yet in the same media coverage, when discussing his ‘humanitarian’ concerns, what I’ve often seen go unmentioned, is Mahathir Mohamad’s bare-faced, not even remotely Israel-related, unveiled Jew-hatred, which he’s publicly declared that he’s ‘glad of’, when labelled an antisemite.

“His Holocaust revision, references to ‘hooked noses’, and decades promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories that ‘Jews run the world by proxy,’ are just a few examples of his flagrant Antisemitism that are conspicuous by their absence, in relation to the media’s description of the Malaysian Head of State’s feelings towards the world’s single Jewish Nation.

"For Malaysia to cite ‘humanitarian’ concerns is the highest hypocrisy.”

Ms Riley, who has become an outspoken campaigner against antisemitism in recent months, added: "Malaysia recently passed legislation permitting public canings imposed by a Sharia court.

“A government official called for 'atheists' to be tracked down and violence frequently occurs against the rainbow community. 

"For such a country to be hosting a Paralympic event, is, in itself, a testament to honouring the spirit of the Olympics’ aim to transcend politics and to use the celebration of sporting achievement to promote global friendship and cooperation.

"To allow this event to take place, with Israeli athletes excluded, would set a dangerous precedent, and send the message that it’s OK to overlook virulent Antisemitism, if cited under the veil of human rights – however transparent the veil.  

"Of course, it should go without saying that not all criticism of Israel is antisemitic, nor indeed wrong, but this is a clear example of where that line has been crossed without care.

"Whatever your politics, and however delicate the circumstances, there is no excuse to abandon the moral values we hold dear. We must continue to speak up, and be louder against antisemitism.”

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