The UK Labour Party’s deputy leader called on the British government to oppose Malaysia’s decision to bar Israeli athletes from a key Paralympics qualifier.
Writing to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Tom Watson said Malaysia’s decision to block Israel’s swimmers from competing at this summer’s event was “completely unacceptable,” noting that it would “unfairly hinder the chances of these athletes being able to compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games.”
Last week, Israel’s foreign ministry blasted Malaysia for banning the Israelis from the summer’s World Para Swimming Championships on the island of Borneo, calling the move “shameful” and saying that if the athletes aren’t allowed in, a new host should be found.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said earlier this month that the Israeli swimmers would not be let into the country, and last week, his foreign minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, said the country “will not host any more events involving Israel or its representatives.”
On Friday, Mohamed said it was his country’s “right” to deny entry to Israeli nationals and that it was “unfair to label him as anti-Semitic” for previous anti-Semitic remarks. Speaking before Oxford University’s prestigious debating chamber, the Oxford Union, Mohamad said that “a country has the right to keep its borders closed to certain people, that’s why borders are there.”
The “decision to discriminate against Israeli athletes” also goes against the mission of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the deputy Labour leader said. The government must therefore put pressure on the Malaysian High Commissioner to reverse the decision, Watson told Hunt.
Watson, the No. 2 to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, echoed the Israeli Foreign Ministry call to either allow Israel to participate, or take the tournament away from Malaysia.
“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.”