Thousands of people from over 75 countries have joined the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in calling on the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to condemn Malaysia’s ban on Israeli athletes and relocate the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, set to take place in Kuching, to a country willing to welcome athletes of all nationalities. 

The petition, launched Thursday night, garnered thousands of signatures within twelve hours, with many additional signatories lending their names to the call every hour since.

“Perhaps we should expect nothing more from a government whose head has engaged in Holocaust denial for decades and says he’s ‘glad to be labeled anti-Semitic,’ but we certainly expect more from the Paralympics, which is supposed to represent the highest ideals of humankind,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “We trust the IPC’s Governing Board will make the right decision and move the competition to a country willing to welcome athletes of all nations, in accordance with the IPC’s own constitution.”

Malaysian government officials have repeatedly stated that Israeli athletes will not be permitted to enter the country in order to participate in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, set to take place in the Malaysian city of Kuching in July. No other country’s athletes will be barred from competing in the event, which is a prequalifier for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

“We call on the Governing Board to condemn Malaysia for its discriminatory decision, and we strongly urge the Governing Board to relocate the World Para Swimming Championships to a country that is willing to welcome athletes from all national backgrounds, in accordance with the IPC Constitution,” reads the AJC petition. “We also call on the Governing Board to seek commitments from future host countries that athletes of all nations will be able to compete in all future competitions. To allow this abhorrent policy to stand, without objection or repercussions, threatens the noble values upon which international sport relies as a vehicle for promoting peace and coexistence throughout the world.”

The IPC Constitution states that the IPC will “promote sports for athletes with impairments without discrimination for political, religious, economic, disability, racial, gender or sexual orientation reasons,” and that every member country has the right to “enter their athletes in the Paralympic Games and all competitions sanctioned by the IPC, subject to compliance with the IPC rules and regulations and the decisions of the IPC.” Malaysia’s ban on Israeli athletes is in direct violation of those clauses.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad—who has 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 in Kuala Lumpur by a Jewish composer.

The AJC petition is being sent to the IPC Governing Board today. The Board is set to announce how it will respond to the Malaysian ban during its meetings in London tomorrow.

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