Wednesday, February 18, 2009

UAE Refuses Visa for Israeli Tennis Player

The United Arab Emirates has denied Israeli tennis player Shahar Pe'er a visa to compete in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships this week despite qualifying for the tournament.

The Women's Tennis Association currently ranks Pe'er 45th in the world.

The official explanation for her exclusion concerns Israel's recent defensive operation in the Gaza Strip. According to Salah Tahlak, the director of the tournament, "Public sentiment remains high in the Middle East and fans and we have watched live television coverage of the recent attacks in Gaza. We believe that Shahar Pe'er's presence would have antagonized our fans." (

Well, the reason for that public sentiment against Israel is due because of sensationalism in the UAE media which accuses Israel of deliberating targeting UN staff in Gaza. ( This despite the fact the UNRWA itself has acknowledged Israel did not attack its facilities.

If the Obama Administration ever ran afoul of the UAE would it not grant visas to the Williams sisters? Don't bet on it.

The Tennis Channel will not cover the tournament in protest and The Wall Street Journal has withdrawn its sponsorship. The WTA is considering discontinuing the tournament next year.

Although several of Pe'er's colleagues such as Elena Dementieva and Ana Ivanovic expressed their disappointment they are still partaking in the tournament. Other players ought to have refused to play in support of their colleague. If the Williams sisters plus the game's top male players Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had said they wouldn't go to Dubai over Pe'er's exclusion the UAE would back down faster than you could say game-set-match. The fact they have remained silent is disturbing.

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