The Malaysian Government’s ban on Israeli athletes competing in a key Paralympics qualifier in their country is “fundamentally wrong”, Britain’s Foreign Office has said.
The intervention came after Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson wrote to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for the British Government to act over Malaysia move ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
“We do not agree with Malaysian Government’s position on this. It is fundamentally wrong,” an FCO spokesperson said on Tuesday.
“Israeli athletes should not be banned from competing.”
In his letter to Mr Hunt, which was written last Friday, Mr Watson branded Malaysia’s decision “completely unacceptable” and said the “decision to discriminate against Israeli athletes” also goes against the mission of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
He added: “If the Malaysian government refuses to do so, I would ask that you call on the International Paralympic Committee and World Para Swimming to relocate the Championships to a nation where the ideals of the Olympic movement will be upheld by allowing Israeli athletes to participate.”
Last Thursday, Israel accused Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of “rabid antisemitism” after he said his country would not host any more sports events involving competitors from the Jewish state.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah had earlier insisted the country would “not host events” that have Israeli participation.
“It is about fighting on behalf of the oppressed,” he added.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon hit back at the “shameful” decision to bar athletes from the country and said the move “totally opposes the Olympic spirit”.
The Oxford University Union was also criticised for inviting the Prime Minister of Malaysia to speak to its members last Friday night, with the university’s Jewish society calling him “an open and unrepentant antisemite.”
Speaking to the Oxford Union, Mr Mohamad doubled down on his well-known antisemitism, saying it was a matter of freedom of speech for him to speak “against the Jews”.
When it was pointed out his previous remarks about Jewish people being “hooked nosed” with “an instinctive sense of money” were antisemitic, he responded saying: “We are free to say what we like, we can say something that can be regarded as antisemitic by the Jews.
“That is their right to hold such an opinion of me. It is my right to tell them they have been doing a lot of wrong things.
“Why can’t we say anything against Israel, against the Jews?”