ISRAEL has slammed Malaysia’s decision to ban the participation of Israeli athletes in international sporting events hosted by the Southeast Asian nation, saying the decision was inspired by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s “rabid anti-Semitism”.
The Jewish state’s complaint came after Malaysia’s banned Israeli citizens from competing in the World Para-Swimming championships this coming July.
Israel is the only country with which Malaysia does not maintain diplomatic relations.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon called on the organiser, International Paralympic Committee, to change the venue if Malaysia does not rescind the ban.
“This is shameful and totally opposes the Olympic spirit,” he said in a statement, as quoted by Reuters.
“Israel condemns the decision, inspired no doubt by Malaysia PM Mahathir’s rabid anti-Semitism.”
The 93-year-old Dr Mahathir has long been a vocal critic of Israel over the latter’s occupation of Palestinian territories, leading to claims he was an anti-semitic premier.
The swimming competition in the eastern state of Sarawak will be held between July 29 and Aug 4 and involves swimmers from 70 countries.
The event is seen as an important milestone in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics next year.
In a statement, the International Paralympic Committee said it was “bitterly disappointed at the stance of the Malaysian government”, adding its governing board would discuss the matter at a meeting in London next week.
Last December, thousands of protestors in Malaysia and Indonesia took to the streets over Washington’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Palestinians have been on a decades-long struggle to establish East Jerusalem as its capital, which was captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War.
On Wednesday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said Cabinet decided Malaysia will not host any programme or event which involved Israeli participation.
The decision also involved not allowing representatives from Israel to enter this country for any event, either of international level, sports or any other programme, according to the New Straits Times.
“Before the new government, it was learnt three cabinet meetings were held with important decisions made regarding Malaysia and Israel ties.
“In regards to the cabinet’s decision made two weeks ago, I can say it is the most firm (relating to Malaysia and Israel ties),” he said.