The International Paralympic Committee [IPC] has stripped Malaysia of the hosting rights to a swimming championship after it did not allow Israelis to compete – but Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was defiant.
The IPC made the announcement in a statement on Sunday after a governing board meeting in London on the World Para Swimming Championships, which were due begin in July 29 in Kuching.
“Malaysia failed to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination,” the statement said.
“This includes full compliance with the IPC protocols related to anthems and flags, and where required the provision of relevant visas,” it added.
Malaysia infuriated Israel after saying it would not allow Israeli swimmers to compete in a tournament that serves as a qualifying event for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
“Every country has the right to accept or refuse entry of anybody,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week.
“You can see that in America now they are erecting a very high wall to prevent Mexicans from going to America. We have the same idea, that people who are undesirable for our country will be kept out of our country,” he added.
The 93-year-old, who is serving a second stint as prime minister, has been an outspoken critic of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinian people.
Mahathir branded Israel “a criminal country”, adding: “If their people want to compete in sport, they can go to some other country.”
He said the Israeli athletes hailed from a country which operates outside international rules, including building settlements in territories not its own.
Israel had blasted Malaysia’s decision, saying it was motivated by Mahathir’s “rabid anti-Semitism”.
Malaysia, which has no formal diplomatic ties with Israel, has stopped Israeli athletes from competing in a sports event before.
Two Israeli windsurfers had to pull out of a competition on Langkawi island after they were refused visas in 2015.