Malaysian ban on Israeli athletes irks Tel Aviv
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Malaysian ban on Israeli athletes irks Tel Aviv

Malaysia said that it would not allow Israeli athletes to enter the country to compete at any sporting event in the Southeast Asia country after it banned Israeli swimmers from taking part in the World Para Swimming Championships, slated for July in the eastern state of Sarawak. The event is an important milestone toward the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon condemned the decision, saying it was inspired by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's "rabid anti-Semitism." "This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit," he said in a statement on Thursday. Nahshon also urged the International Paralympic Committee, which is organizing the competition, to change the venue if it cannot convince Malaysia to lift the ban. The committee said in a statement that the IPC governing board would discuss the issue at a meeting in London next week. However, Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said on Friday that Israel’s condemnation of his country for allegedly politicizing sports is an attempt to play the victim card and described them as hypocrites. “Has hypocrite Israel forgotten the ban they placed on Gaza’s Ittihad Al-Shejaiya football team from crossing into the West Bank to play the final match of the Palestine Football Cup? Is that not politicizing sports?” Syed Saddiq said in a statement in which he cited several other instances of Israeli hypocrisy. “Where was the self-righteous, victim-playing, Hypocrite Israel then? As the Malaysian youth and sports minister, I stand firm with our decision,” he said, adding “Malaysia should not be a complicit to a brutal and inhumane regime. Our Palestinian brothers and sisters have been murdered in cold blood and those who live, imprisoned for life in the open-air prison (of Gaza) tightly controlled by the Israeli regime.” Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, causing a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty. Muslim-majority Malaysia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Wednesday said that the decision is related to "fighting on behalf of the oppressed." Last month, Mahathir Mohamad denounced Australia’s formal recognition of Jerusalem al-Quds as the so-called capital of Israel, saying that "they have no rights" to do so.

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