World Squash Championships cancelled over Israel ban

Host Malaysia had refused to issue visas to the Israeli team for next week’s games, violating the sporting federation’s charter against discrimination.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The World Squash Federation (WSF) has cancelled its men’s world championship games set for next week in Malaysia due to the Moslem country’s ban on Israeli competitors and new COVID concerns, the WSF announced Monday.

In the statement, WSF President Zena Wooldridge the organization was “extremely disappointed” to announce the annulment of the games. She thanked both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and 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. It is important to WSF that no nation who wishes to compete misses out on the event.”

Back in September, Malaysia’s squash association had said it “would not be able to guarantee [Israeli sportsmen’s] safety” when the country refused to supply entry visas to the team. There are no diplomatic ties between Kuala Lampur and Jerusalem, and Malaysia’s prime minister is fervently pro-Palestinian, making many hostile statements against Israel in the past.

The Israel Squash Association (ISA) had asked the WSF several times since then to either move the event or cancel it, due to its own charter, based on that of the IOC, stating that players cannot be discriminated against based on their nationality, race, religion, and other factors. On Friday, the ISA filed a lawsuit at the international Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland against the federation when it repeatedly refused to do so.

The UK Lawyers For Israel (UKLFI), which had sent a warning letter to the WSF saying that as a UK-based organization, it was obligated under the country’s Equality Act 2010 not to discriminate against a member or associate on the grounds of nationality, expressed satisfaction with the decision.

“We urged the WSF to cancel the Championship and they have now done so,” said UKLFI CEO Jonathan Turner in a statement. “We are pleased that the WSF has accepted its legal as well as moral obligations not to accept the racism of the Malaysian authorities, and that it will in future require host nations’ governments to confirm that all eligible competitors will be permitted to participate.”

ISA chairman Aviv Bushinsky was hopeful that the ruling would have a positive impact going forward.

“As lovers of sports in general and squash in particular, we know how difficult it is to cancel a tournament,” he said. “There is nothing more frustrating for a professional athlete than to be told that he or she cannot compete after years of training and preparation, yet I believe that this incident will prevent any similar discrimination in the future.”

In its statement, the WSF also mentioned that another reason for the cancellation was its “concerns” regarding the new Omicron variant, which “could have a big impact on the ability of certain teams to travel to Malaysia for the event.”

The championship had already been moved from Tauranga in New Zealand over pandemic concerns and possible related travel restrictions. Now it will only be played some time in 2022.