Shahar Pe'er, Israeli tennis player
It’s a shame to see a young person deprived of the opportunity to pursue her career in the fullest sense.
So there’s a natural inclination, for just a moment, to feel sympathy for Shahar Pe’er, recently refused a visa to enter Dubai to compete in an international tennis competition.
But the moment soon passes. Reason demands a comprehensive boycott of Apartheid Israel, following the well-established tradition of boycotting Apartheid South Africa in sports events during the 1970s and 1980s.
The sports boycott may not have been the primary cause of the transformation of the rogue, nuclear-armed State of South Africa into unified democratic governance. But it was a demoralizing blow to segregationalist, but very sports-oriented, South African culture. It showed that a united world was unwilling to play games over Apartheid any longer. Few argue, in hindsight, that it was not an effective and worthwhile boycott.
The same principle applies now to Israel. Israel is not identical to South Africa. In many respects it is worse. But the cases are a close historical parallel – and the world should be clear, this time as last: no playing games with Apartheid.
Dubai has shown great leadership. Governments and sports authorities of countries such as the USA, Britain and Australia may be less inclined to follow. They will come under heavy pressure from the Israel Lobby and doubtless include Zionists within their ranks.
But even if officialdom doesn’t take action, there’s a remedy in the hands of ordinary people. If sports events outside Israel include Israeli athletes, protests from the community should ensuree these events are never ‘normal’.
Peter Hain MP, once a valiant anti-Apartheid activist
That is precisely how the sports boycott issue was fought a generation ago. It did not fall into the lap of protestors. They had to struggle. Ask British MP and former Minister Peter Hain. He helped lead the campaign in Britain against sporting events with South Africa. The campaign included peaceful – but often forthright – direct action. It was successful in the end.
It’s regrettable that Israeli athletes and sports people must suffer until the world can resume normal contact once again. But that’s the price they have to pay for citizenship of a segregationalist State.
At least they have an alternative. They could apply for a Palestinian Passport, which would open doors around the world to their participation. Ethnicity and religion are no bar to Palestinian citizenship.
Palestinian tennis is in the doldrums at present. Gazan tennis players are especially out of practice.
Palestine could use some extra talent at this difficult time.