Dubai and the UAE have been receiving a bit of flack this week when they denied a visa to an Israeli tennis player to compete in Dubai. The Israeli tennis association and others within the sport are calling foul saying that politics should not be a factor when it comes to competitive sporting events.
Well, sorry kids, but it enters it all the time. The boycotting of the 1980 Olympics (Israel was one of the boycotting countries)and the 1984 Olympics quickly come to mind. If this truly IS political, then there are few countries on earth that can say they haven’t done the same, and on a much greater scale. The UAE and Israel don’t have diplomatic relations with each other, and you can’t even enter the country if you have an Israeli stamp on your passport. Because the Emirates does not recognize Israel as a sovereign nation, to them it makes your passport illegitimate because it has an illegitimate stamp. They are not the only country to do this, and this type of thing happens in a few political hotspots around the world.
The Dubai authorities claim that their denial is due to concern for her safety, as Emirates has a lot of people who have very strong feelings about the recent activity in Gaza, including a ton of Palestinian expats living and working there. The player in question, Shahar Peer, had to endure protests in New Zealand concerning Gaza while she was trying to play. There’s no doubt in my mind that politics IS playing some sort of a role, but I also think they have a point. It’s not going to do them any good if she’s harmed while here, so in a sense they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
My empathy for her is also dampened because Israel’s record of “keeping politics out of things” in anything, including sports, is abysmal(see Olympics reference above). For example, take the movement of Palestinain students out of Gaza. So far, the only people who have even had a slight chance of getting out last year were 7 Fulbright scholars, and that was only after their grants had been pulled and given to other people because they weren’t allowed to leave. (actually, later the US State Department had some equally ridiculous behavior concerning this. The link is definitely worth a look). Only half of those students ever made it out, and then-Secretary Condi Rice had to get directly involved before there was a whole international crisis about it. I personally find that more appauling than some woman not getting to play in a tennis tournament.
That being said, I’ve occasionally suffered while traveling or even just chatting with friends due to America’s foreign policy, over which I have no control, so I don’t want to see anyone else put out because of the actions of their government. I hope the situation gets resolved in a way that’s mutually amicable to all involved parties.