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Tunisia could lose the right to host world chess championships after refusing to grant a visa to a 7-year-old Israeli chess champion.

By: JNS, United with Israel Staff and the Tower

Tunisia may lose the right to host world chess championships after refusing to grant a visa to Israel’s seven-year-old chess champion for the 2019 World Schools Chess Championship.

Tunisia has no diplomatic ties with Israel and will not make an exception to authorize a young Israeli girl, Liel Levitan—the European School Individual Chess champion in her age group—to enter the country for the upcoming World Chess Federation (FIDE) tournament.

If Levitan does not attend the tournament, she and the other Israeli contestants will be disqualified from the tournament.

The FIDE is reportedly attempting to pressure Tunisia to allow entry of the Israeli participants.

FIDE secretary Poline Tsedenova told The Jerusalem Post that the organization has requested “an urgent explanation from the Tunisian Chess Federation” and demanded guarantees that the 2019 World Schools Championship would include Israelis—or else Tunisia would not be hosting the event.

The FIDE code of ethics states that the organization “attaches the greatest importance to fair play and good sportsmanship.”

For years, Israeli athletes have faced boycotts, snubs and logistical hurdles in sporting events involving Arab and Muslim countries.

Last month, International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer decided to cancel IJF events in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Tunisia over their anti-Israel discrimination.

“We strongly believe that politics should not have any interference in sports and that sports should be a reflection of human respect, understanding and mutual cooperation and that sports, as one of the highest expressions of humanity, should have the power to overcome any other conflict or interest,” the IJF stated.

‘If That’s Not Racism, What Is?’

Commenting on the anti-Israel bias in sports tournaments, Joshua S. Block, President and CEO of The Israel Project, wrote in an op-ed for The Algemeiner on Friday that “for the ‘crime’ of being Israeli, the little girl is prohibited from playing in the World Chess Championship, because host nation Tunisia will not allow Israelis to compete. If that’s not racism, what is?”

He also cited previous incidents of “horrific acts of discrimination” against Israeli athletes, including the World Chess Championship in Saudi Arabia in December from which Israel’s players were excluded because of their nationality, as well as the refusal of the Lebanese national team to share a bus with their Israeli counterparts during the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Block contrasted these vile acts of discrimination against the inclusive atmosphere at the World Lacrosse Championship, which took place in Netanya earlier this month.

“In a vibrant festival of sport, 46 teams from all over the world competed against each other across ethnic, religious, and cultural divides,” Block overserved. “Sports are a team-building exercise. They’re meant to bring strangers together in a celebration of healthy competition — and that’s exactly what happened in Netanya during the lacrosse event.”

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