American Jewish Committee (AJC) has welcomed the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Governing Board’s decision to strip Malaysia of the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, due to the country’s refusal to admit Israeli athletes.

“Today’s decision is a great victory for the Paralympic spirit,” said AJC CEO David Harris, who had written to the Governing Board earlier in the week, calling on it to relocate the competition. “The IPC Governing Board has sent a crystal-clear message that it will not tolerate violations of its own code of conduct. Blatant discrimination by Malaysia against athletes from Israel was just that.” 

AJC had submitted a petition to the IPC Governing Board before the group announced its decision. Signed by thousands of people from more than 70 countries, the petition called on the Governing Board to condemn Malaysia’s ban on Israeli athletes, relocate the event to a country willing to host athletes from Israel, and seek commitments from future host countries that all athletes will be able to compete in future Paralympic events. Notably, the petition’s signatories included individuals from Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, and Malaysia itself.

Malaysian government officials had repeatedly stated that Israeli athletes would not be permitted to enter the country in order to participate in the championships, which had been set to take place in the city of Kuching in July. No other country’s athletes — only Israeli athletes — were to be barred from competing in the event, which is a qualifier for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad, who had publicly defended his government’s ban on Israeli athletes, has called Jews “hooked-nosed,” engaged in Holocaust denial, promoted conspiracy theories alleging a Jewish plot to take over the world, and sought to bar the New York Philharmonic from playing a musical piece by a Jewish composer during a concert in Kuala Lumpur.

Noting the timing of the decision, which was announced on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Harris added, “As anti-Semitism rises around the world, we commend the IPC Governing Board for saying clearly that its manifestation in Malaysia has no place in the Paralympic community.” 

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