I would welcome Israeli swimmers to S’wak

Opinion  |  Francis Paul Siah
Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | So, Malaysia has imposed a blanket ban on all Israelis from participating in the upcoming World Para Swimming Championships.

The championships will be held in Sarawak, my dear homeland, from July 29 to Aug 4. Hence, my interest in the subject. It is rare for Sarawak to host an international sports event.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has stressed that Israelis should not come to Malaysia as the country does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

He said Malaysia had the right to keep its border closed to certain people, especially from countries the nation feels are doing a lot of wrong things.

Not surprisingly, Israel retaliated strongly, with its Foreign Ministry lambasting Malaysia and its openly anti-Semitic leader Mahathir over the country’s declaration that it will host no events with Israelis, including a Paralympic swimming tournament later this year.

“The Malaysian government has taken the decision to ban the participation of Israelis in official international sport events in Malaysia, including the participation of athletes with disabilities in a swimming competition organised by the International Paralympic Committee,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit.”

“We call upon the International Paralympic Committee to change this wrong decision or change the venue of the event,” it added.

I think changing the venue of the event is a good idea. If I were the chief minister of Sarawak, I would return the host job to the federal government.

Minding our own business

There is no reason for Sarawak to be embroiled in a controversy over sports. Mixing politics with sports is something our peaceful hornbill state is not accustomed to, nor do we wish to be sullied by an international outcry.

I believe the majority of Sarawakians, myself included, have nothing against Israel or their athletes. Neither are we interested in the long-running Middle East conflict and the never-ending Israel-Palestine confrontation. In short, we don’t care...

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