Malaysia stripped of Paralympic swimming event over Israel ban


A major Paralympic swimming event will no longer take place in Malaysia due to their government’s ban on Israeli athletes taking part in events, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said on Sunday.

Malaysia was due to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

In a statement, the IPC said the decision to strip Malaysia of the right to host the event was taken after the Home Ministry “failed to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination, and safely in the Championships.”

“When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new Championships host,” IPC President Andrew Parson said.

The IPC said it is currently looking for an alternative site to host the event, which was due to take place from July 29 through August 4.

Israel hails move as ‘victory’

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, praised the IPC’s decision, saying that it was “a victory of values over hatred and bigotry, a strong statement in favor of freedom and equality.”

Malaysia, a majority-Muslim country that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, announced earlier in January that Israelis would be barred from participating in events held in the country.

Israel condemned the ban, saying it was likely prompted by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s “rabid anti-Semitism.”

Mahathir, 93, has been repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism for his comments against Jewish people, including an interview last October where he described Jews as “hook-nosed” and blamed them for conflicts in the Middle East.

Malaysia defends ban

Despite the IPC’s decision on Sunday, Malaysian officials defended the decision to bar Israelis, with Malaysia’s Minister of Youth and Sports saying that the move was to show solidarity with Palestinians.

“If hosting an international sporting event is more important than standing up for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who get murdered, maimed and tortured by the Netanyahu regime, that means Malaysia has truly loss its moral compass,” Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, said in a statement.

The IPC said that when Malaysia was awarded the event in 2017, it had received assurances from the government that all countries would be allowed to participate, but a “change of political leadership”

“Politics and sport are never a good mix and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia,” IPC head Parson said.

rs/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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