KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia is refusing to grant visas for Israeli players to participate in the squash world championship next month, the sport’s governing body has said, sparking anger in the Jewish state.
It is the latest instance of the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian nation, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, attempting to bar its athletes from the country.
The World Team Championship for men is due to take place in Kuala Lumpur from December 7-12, with 26 squads participating.
But the World Squash Federation (WSF) said it had “been made aware that, at present, the Malaysian authorities have not accepted yet to provide visas for the Israel squash team.”
“The WSF is committed to the principle of open and inclusive world championships in which all member nations who wish to participate are welcome to do so,” the governing body said in a statement to AFP.
The WSF added it was in contact with Malaysia’s squash body and hoped that “a fair and practical solution can be achieved.”
Israelis are barred from visiting the South Asian country, where the Palestinian cause enjoys widespread support. Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad once said he was “glad to be labeled antisemitic,” and defended repeated remarks that Jews are “hook-nosed.”
The Israel Squash Association said it plans to turn to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland if the WSF can’t resolve the issue.
“It’s a shame that they are mixing sports with politics,” association chairman Aviv Bushinsky told AFP. “Those who close their eyes — all the countries that participate and let something like that happen — they allow racism and discrimination to take place in sports.”
The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia, the country’s squash organization, declined to comment.
In an earlier comment, responding to a request by WSF President Gerard Monteiro, the head of the Malaysian squash organization had said the country “would not be able to guarantee [Israeli players’] safety and well-being.”
Israel’s Minister of Sport and Culture Chili Tropper said in a statement earlier this week: “I find it impossible to believe that in this modern era, there is still a place for discrimination, as well as the mixing of political considerations and sport.”
The tournament was earlier this year moved to Malaysia from New Zealand because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
In 2019, Malaysia was stripped of the right to host the World Para Swimming Championships for threatening to refuse Israeli athletes.
In 2015, Israeli windsurfers had to pull out of a competition on the island of Langkawi after being refused visas.