Malaysia bans Israeli athletes from competing in swimming championships

Mahathir Mohamad

The Malaysian government has prohibited Israeli athletes from competing in the World Para Swimming Championships which will take place in the country later this year.

The city of Kuching in the eastern Sarawak state will host hundreds of swimmers from 70 countries from July 29th to August 4th, but not Israeli ones.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad told a press conference on Thursday: “We maintain our stand on the prohibition. If they do come, it is a violation. If they want to withdraw Malaysia’s right to host the championships, they can do so.”

And Deputy Malaysian Sports Minister, Sim Hee Kyung, said on Wednesday that his country would not allow the Israeli athletes to enter the country, citing the “clear” Malaysian policy regarding dealings with Israel. The minister stressed that: “The government will maintain its steadfast position regarding this issue as a means to protest against the continuous Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.”

For over 50 years, Malaysia has rejected normalising ties with Israel due to huge popular support for Palestine among the Malaysian population. It is one of a number of Muslim-majority countries that has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, with entry to the country on an Israeli passport prohibited.

Following the announcement the International Paralympic Committee expressed its disappointment and said it would work to resolve the issue.

Israeli athletes are regularly banned from competing at international sporting events in Arab or Muslim countries, or forced to compete without displaying their national symbols. A number of incidents have led to reprimands from international governing bodies.

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