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Squash world championship in Malaysia canceled over refusal to allow in Israelis

World Squash Federation says it was forced to cancel the tournament since it could not ensure an ‘open and inclusive’ event

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Malaysia's Ng Ean Yow, right, and Hong Kong's Au Chun Ming during the men's team squash final match at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)
Illustrative: Malaysia's Ng Ean Yow, right, and Hong Kong's Au Chun Ming during the men's team squash final match at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

The World Squash Federation announced on Monday that the World Men’s Team Squash Championship scheduled for next week in Kuala Lumpur was canceled after Malaysian authorities refused to allow entry to Israeli athletes.

In its statement, WSF said it “believes in an open and inclusive” event, and it was forced to cancel “due to the lack of confirmation over the issuing of visas and travel authorizations.”

Malaysia and Israel have no diplomatic ties, and Israelis are barred from visiting the South Asian country. In 2019, Malaysia was stripped of the right to host the World Para Swimming Championships for threatening to refuse Israeli athletes, and the competition was moved to London. This year’s tournament was moved to Malaysia from New Zealand because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

WSF President Zena Wooldridge indicated that Malaysia’s Olympic officials worked to allow the entry of Israeli athletes, but were unsuccessful in persuading the government to reverse course.

“I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Malaysia for their unwavering efforts to influence the highest authorities of Malaysia to ensure the ability of all participating teams including Israel to enter Malaysia and compete, without any political discrimination, in accordance with the principles and rules of the Olympic Charter,” said Wooldridge. “It is important to WSF that no nation who wishes to compete misses out on the event.”

In its statement, WSF noted that it also had “concerns surrounding the new COVID-19 variant,” which could impact the travel plans of other teams.

Illustrative: Israeli squash player Daniel Poleshchuk, on December 26, 2012. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Earlier this month, the Israel Squash Association said it planned to turn to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland if the WSF could not 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.”

“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,” Culture and Sport Minister Chili Tropper said in an earlier statement.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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