Basketball Ireland Refuses to Shake Hands with Israeli Opponents

Irish women’s basketball team refusesd pre-match formalities, including shaking hands, with Israeli players. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Israel faces pressure on the sporting scene amid its ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip. This time, the Irish women’s basketball team refuses pre-match formalities, including shaking hands. 

In another slight for Israeli sports, the Irish women’s basketball team refused to shake hands with their Israeli opponents before their EuroBasket 2025 qualifying match in Latvia, following outrage over accusations of antisemitism.

Ahead of the game, Basketball Ireland issued a statement on Thursday saying it had informed FIBA Europe the day before that “as a direct result of recent comments made by Israeli players and coaching staff – including inflammatory and wholly inaccurate accusations of anti-semitism, published on official Israeli Federation channels – that our players will not be partaking in traditional pre-match arrangements with our upcoming opponents.”

“This includes exchanging of gifts, formal handshakes before or after the game, while our players will line up for the national anthem by our bench, rather than center court. Basketball Ireland fully supports our players in their decision,” the statement continued.

On Wednesday, Israeli basketball player Dor Sa’ar called the Irish team “quite antisemitic,” in an interview published by the Israeli Basketball Association’s website.

“It’s known that they are quite anti-Semitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected,” Sa’ar reportedly said.

Even though Ireland lost the game to Israel, Ireland head coach James Weldon praised his players for their “incredible maturity in how they handled a very pressured week”, according to Basketball Ireland. 

Basketball Ireland reportedly faced calls to boycott the game against Israel.

“Ireland would have been fined up to €80,000 by FIBA Europe, if they failed to fulfil the fixture against Israel, with an additional fine of €100,000 if the return fixture wasn’t played,” the sporting association said.

In addition, FIBA Europe competition rules would have seen Ireland removed from the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 Qualifiers and the next qualifying campaign, leading to an effective five-year ban, it added.

Call to Ban Israel from Football 

Earlier this week, a group of Middle-Eastern football associations called on world football federations to ban Israel.

The bid to ban Israel from world football is reportedly led by Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, half-brother of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who holds the position of president of the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF).

That 12-nation grouping also includes the FAs of Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The appeal was sent to all 211 national football federations and the six regional confederations, including UEFA, of which Israel is a member, according to Jordan’s Roya News. 

Jordanian FA president Prince Ali reportedly wrote: “We, the West Asian Football Federations, encompassing all its members, call upon FIFA, the Football Confederations, and Member Associations to join us in taking a decisive stand against the atrocities committed in Palestine and the war crimes in Gaza, by condemning the killing of innocent civilians including players, coaches, referees, and officials, the destruction of the football infrastructure, and taking a united front in isolating the Israeli Football Association from all football-related activities until these acts of aggression cease.”

“The humanitarian crisis demands an unequivocal and resolute response from the global football community…As members bound by the statutes of FIFA, we stand united in our pledge to uphold all internationally recognised human rights,” Prince Ali added in his letter, Roya reports.

FIFA has banned Russia from international football following its military operation in Ukraine. 

Israel Expelled from International Hockey

Last month, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced that Israel had been expelled from all competitions due to “safety and security” concerns.

“In accordance with IIHF’s duty of care to protect all participants at IIHF Competitions (…) the IIHF Council (…) has decided to restrict the Israeli National Team from participating in IIHF Championships,” the Federation’s statement read.

Ice Hockey Federation Bans Israeli Team, Tel Aviv Sues

Irish women’s basketball team refusesd pre-match formalities, including shaking hands, with Israeli players. (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

The same procedure was used to ban Russia and Belarus from competition two years ago.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Yael Arad, chairwoman of the Israeli Olympic Committee, as saying that this is a “dangerous decision that stinks of antisemitism under the guise of safety for the athletes.”

Israeli athletes and teams have been barred from some competitions in the past as part of a larger boycott campaign over Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights. 

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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