BOYCOTT & TENNIS, THE WRONG MATCH
By Micah Halpern
Tuesday February 17, 2009
Tennis is a sport, it is not a political movement. Tennis tournaments are supported by sponsors and should not sponsor terror, terrorists or terrorist activities. Playing tennis is about competition, not boycotts.
The Dubai Tennis Championships ranks among the most prestigious tournaments in the world of professional tennis. Coverage of the Dubai receives international attention. This year, the coverage began even before the first match was played. The United Arab Emirates has denied an entrance visa to the person ranked 48th in the world in women's tennis.
Who has the distinction of being denied entry into the UAE? Her name is Shahar Peer. Why has Shahar Peer been singled out? Because Shahar Peer is an Israeli.
The decision sent shock waves throughout the international tennis community. Peer herself received word while participating in a match in Thailand. The shock was dramatic. The response of tennis players has been a unified clamor of dismay.
The players have all sided with Peer. Their support is as admirable as it is ineffective.
International sports at the level of the Dubai Tennis Championships should stand above politics. The reason the Olympics was re-established was specifically to highlight the credo that great sports and great athletics transcend the boundaries of politics and even of war.
The Women's Tennis Association should have cancelled the tournament. The WTA knew that there was a possibility that one of their players would be denied entry into the host country. They warned the hosts not to be discriminatory, not to deny a participant the chance to compete because she came from a country not on their politically approved list.
Larry Scott, director of the Women's Tennis Association, explained the situation by saying the WTA "knew it was an issue, but we made it clear that she was going to be in the draw and we wanted to be optimistic that she would get the visa." But, he said, "they (the UAE) waited until the 11th hour to deny it (the entry visa )."
The WTA director continued by saying: "I made it clear to them that if Shahar were not allowed to play, they would run the risk of losing their tournament. It would be a big blow to lose one of this prestige and money, but if it comes to the principles of fairness and openness, there can be no compromise."
Scott said all the right things. The problem is that he did nothing.
Larry Scott and the WTA have already compromised. They permitted the tournament to play despite their own warning and without the participation of one of their own member players. Larry Scott and the WTA did nothing to insure or to insist that the boycott against Israel declared by the Dubai Tennis Championships be rescinded.
Larry Scott and the Women's Tennis Association spoke up, but they took no action. They let the ball fall where it may. Canceling the Dubai Tennis Championships would have hurt the rankings of all the women scheduled to participate. Now, the only woman to be hurt is Shahar Peer, she has been cancelled, not the tournament.
This boycott is not personal it is political. Shahar Peer is a symbol, not a person for the Dubai organizers and decision makers. Her fellow players understood the situation and that is why they were in favor of supporting Peer and exerting more pressure on the hosts. The players were less afraid than the Association.
Shame on the Women's Tennis Association. The world has come to expect little of the United Arab Emirates, the decision to block Peer was true to form.
Boycotting Israel is wrong - regardless of the justification. There are organizations that boycott Israeli scholars and academics even translators and organizations that are attempting to divest from Israeli technology. Not agreeing with Israel is not the same as fostering hatred of Israel. These boycotts are enforced not to cause financial harm, these are boycotts for the sole purpose of fostering hatred.
The Israeli operation in Gaza was an act of defense. Even if one disagreed with the operation, one must accept the principle that Israelis eventually have the right to defend themselves against terrorists who want to see them and Israel wiped off the map.
By permitting the Dubai Tennis Championships to play on without the player ranked 48th in world women's tennis, the Women's Tennis Association has allowed itself to be co-opted by the wrong kind of sponsor. The United Arab Emirates does not sponsor athletic shoes, the UAE does not sponsor artificial turf or watches or soft drinks. The UAE has the full support of the Women's Tennis Association and they boycott Israel.
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