[OPINION] Israel’s Shahar Peer to play in Qatar again; Should sports be exempted from sanctions?
The Israeli debate is a hot one in the region. At so many levels – cultural, ethnic, religious and humanitarian – people take strong stance on the kind of relationship the Arab world should have with Israel.
There are strong voices for and against normalisation. There have been multiple movements on social media in the past two years against Israeli-representations in different spheres in Qatar. The last one was the FINA swimming world cup at Aspire in late October of 2013. The Israeli flag was raised at the Hamad Aquatic Center and it triggered severe criticism, leading to the removal of the flag. The Israeli team continued its participation.
Next week the Qatar Total Open women’s tennis tournament will be held. And the list on Qatar Tennis Federation (QTF) website shows Israeli player Shahar Peer (ranked 86 in the world). This is the fourth time that Shahar comes to Qatar. The very first campaign of Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalization (QAYON) was related to her participation last year.
I would assume that many of you would argue against boycotting Israel? Or that sports and politics should not be mixed? Well it’s not just a boycott, it’s a resistance movement against any form of racial discrimination. Not just as Muslims or Arabs, but as human beings, we cannot ignore the fact that Israeli players get the opportunity to come and go as they please while Palestinians are denied the right to return to their homeland. How is it possible to allow representatives from an apartheid state to play in sports while it oppresses Palestinians not just politically but culturally as well?
QAYON, a content-driven activist group, believes that since Israel mixes sports with politics, there has to be reciprocal action. Sports after all has been a political tool, take for example the ping-pong diplomacy between the US and China.
Yesterday, the group published a letter (in Arabic) that was addressed to Head of QTF Saad Bin Saleh Al-Mohannadi requesting that Shahar Peer not be allowed to participate in the tournament. The letter mentions Qataris support of Palestinians during the Nakba, and said while the federation worked hard on being recognised internationally, it also had to take a stand and tell the world that sports is an exercise that believes in equal opportunities and universality between all participants.
If we allow for normalisation between the Arab world and Israel then we must expect a change in the latter’s policies as well. What about Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, who was arrested in 2009 and held for three years without a fair trials?
That same year Ayman Alkurd, Shade Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtahe, three Palestinian footballers, were murdered in Gaza.
In 2006 Israel bombed a stadium in Gaza. It was rebuilt with the help of FIFA but was bombed again in 2012.
Sports is about “fair match”, it seems quite irrational not just for Qatar Tennis Federation, but any sporting federation to not take that into cognizance.
Editor’s Note: Shahar Peer did not make it to the final draw as her ranking was low, and will not be appearing in this year’s tournament.