North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Shahar Peer A Victim Not of Race, But of Politics

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Some have called the United Arab Emirates racist for denying a visa to Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer, forcing her to withdraw from the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships.

Those doing it are missing the point of the UAE’s actions: it’s not so much racist as it is reactionary, as the country reacted as much of the Arabic world would seem to in recent days, with swift judgment against Israel.

Last month, Israel launched an invasion on the Gaza strip that was extraordinarily unpopular in the Middle East. Already unpopular, their utter destruction of the area has turned opposition even more against them: there have been protests as far away as Canada and the United States.

Peer’s visa denial is just another step in the reaction towards Israel. The UAE is a country without an established relationship to Israel, so their interaction is going to be limited to passive actions like this.

But for those who are calling this a decision based on race are only partially right; yes, she was denied because she has an Israeli background. But she was not denied because of it. It is not like Arthur Ashe being denied the right to play in South Africa. This is politics infringing upon sport, like the US pulling out of the 1980 Olympics – or the Soviet Bloc pulling out of the 1984 Olympics.

Politics aren’t the only thing hurting this tournament. Dubai is a city in free fall. Its unfettered growth has slowed down and is even beginning to sink. People – often westerners – are slinking away from the country in debt, some leaving behind everything: apartments, cars and bills.

There has even been talk of cancelling the tournament. The Toronto Star reported that the chief executive of the women’s tournament, Larry Scott, came close to cancelling the event but relented only because so many players had already arrived in Dubai.

Besides, the freeze between the two countries could be starting to thaw too; a visa was granted to Andy Ram, an Israeli doubles tennis player. For Peer, though, it may already be too late. She’s become a casualty in a game of global politics through no fault of her own.


Written by M.

February 20, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Posted in Tennis

Tagged with , ,

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