Israelis who were denied visas for the tournament in Riyadh last year are demanding action from the world chess body.
By: United with Israel Staff
Two Israeli nationals have petitioned the Fédération lnternationale des Échecs (FIDE), the international chess governing body, to fight the discrimination they faced when they were prevented from taking part in a chess tournament in Saudi Arabia last year because of their nationality.
Israeli chess grandmaster Ilya Smirin and former spokesperson for the Israeli Chess Federation Lior Aizenberg sent a missive to the FIDE requesting financial compensation and seeking assurances that the organization will not allow host countries to perpetrate discrimination against Israelis again.
Smirin and Aizenberg are being supported in their action by The Lawfare Project, a US-based think tank and litigation fund that fights anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli discrimination around the world.
Saudi Arabia denied visas to seven Israeli chess players in December 2017, preventing them from competing in the World Blitz and Rapid Championships in Riyadh. The Saudis simply never responded to visa requests by the Israeli players.
The letter, sent in October, charged that their “inability to participate in this Tournament was due to FIDE’s failure to secure entry visas to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the Israeli nationals and, correspondingly, its failure to guarantee their equal treatment and to protect them against discrimination on the basis of their nationality.”
The letter cited official FIDE policies “reject[ing] discriminatory treatment for national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of gender” and stipulations that FIDE-sanctioned events may “be hosted only by Federations where free access is generally assured to representatives of all Federations.”
The letter further requested that FIDE take several concrete actions to prevent exclusion of Israelis from Saudi-hosted tournaments in 2018 and 2019, as well as from the 2019 World Schools Chess Championship in Tunisia. The letter also demanded that FIDE compensate Aizenberg and Smirin for preventing them from participating in the December 2017 tournament.
‘We Will Not Stand By Idly’
“We will not stand idly by as Israelis are subjected to a gross double standard and are illegally discriminated against solely because of their nationality,” said Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of The Lawfare Project.
“Together with our partners in the legal community, we are making clear to international bodies such as FIDE that it is their duty to prevent such discrimination. We have every confidence that FIDE will do the right thing and ensure that chess is for all,” she added.
For years, Israeli athletes have faced boycotts, snubs and logistical hurdles in sporting events involving Arab and Muslim countries.
In August, a Judo competitor ate so much ahead of the match that he flunked the weigh-in, thereby disqualifying himself from competing against Israeli Sagi Muki.
An Iranian judoka pulled a similar stunt in February.
In November 2017, Morocco refused entry to Israel’s national judo team.
In April 2016, an Egyptian judoka refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent at the Rio Olympics.
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