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Chess

Saudi Arabia is refusing to allow Israel’s chess team to compete in an international competition in the country.

Israeli players attempting to compete in an event held in an Arab country have again encountered attempts to exclude them.

Saudi Arabia has denied entry visas to an Israeli chess team, banning them from an international competition being held in the kingdom.

Israel Gelfer, vice president of chess’ international governing body the World Chess Federation (FIDE), said Sunday that the Saudis never responded to the requests by seven Israeli players.

“It’s an old system. They simply didn’t answer,” he said.

Gelfer said substantial efforts were made to persuade the Saudis to grant the visas.

Gelfer also claimed Israel will ask FIDE to cancel plans to hold the same championship in Saudi Arabia in 2018 and 2019. If not, he says Israel will turn to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

Israel Chess Federation spokesperson Lior Aizenberg told Reuters that efforts were still ongoing to include Israel in the tournament.

“The event is not a world championship if they prevent chess players from several countries from taking part,” Aizenberg stated. “Every chess player should have the right to participate in an event on the basis of professional criteria, regardless of their passports, their place of issue or the stamps they bear.”

A History of Muslim Anti-Israel Policies in Sports

Muslim anti-Israel sentiments are prevalent in sports.

In November, Morocco refused entry to Israel’s national judo team.

In October, Israel’s Judo team encountered Muslim hostility in Abu Dhabi when the country barred Israel’s judo team from donning national symbols and refused to play the Jewish state’s national anthem during the tournament.

The 12 Israeli athletes participating in the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam tournament could not even include the letters “ISR” to identify their nationality on their uniforms.

Similarly, in one of the competitions, Israel’s Tohar Butbul beat the UAE’s Rashad Almashjari, who then refused to shake hands after losing.

In February, Iranian karate athlete Majid Hassaninia refused to compete against an Israeli opponent at the 21st Open de Paris – Karate Premier League in France. The Iranian sportsman acted in opposition to the accepted international code of honor in sports.

In April 2016, an Egyptian judoka refused to shake hands with his Israeli opponent at the Rio Olympics.

Egyptian Judoka Islam El Shehaby lost to Sasson at the 2016 Olympics. When Sasson extended his hand after his victory, El Shehaby backed away and shook his head, injecting Middle Eastern politics into the Rio Olympics. The referee called the 34-year-old El Shehaby back to the mat and ordered him to bow; he gave a quick nod and was loudly booed as he exited.

Judo opponents typically bow or shake hands at the beginning and end of a match as a sign of respect.

The International Olympic Committee, which set up a disciplinary commission to investigate the incident, sent the Egyptian home, calling his conduct “contrary to the rules of fair play and against the spirit of friendship embodied in the Olympic values.”

By: United with Israel Staff and AP

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