Tennis Boycott of Israel Serves Ace

By Iqbal Jassat – South Africa

Business Day carries an interesting account of a controversy raging in tennis circles over the denial of a visa to Israel’s Shahar Peer by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), “Israel calls for boycott as UAE rejects player”. (Business Day, February 18, 2009)

Peer was denied an entry visa that would have let her play in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai.

What is encouraging about the growing momentum to impose a sporting boycott against Israel is the acknowledgement by tournament organizers that public sentiment remains high following the brutal slaughter of innocents in Gaza.

That such anti-Israeli occupation sentiments are not confined to the Arab street is evidenced by huge protests against Peer at an earlier tournament in New Zealand a few weeks ago. Protestors waving placards demanding her removal from the ASB Tennis Centre in Auckland also called for an end to Israeli apartheid.

Israeli conduct during its 22day aggression in Gaza is being investigated as war crimes by prominent human rights NGOs in different capitals of the world. In addition the global outrage that it caused still reverberates in many quarters, including Dubai’s tennis courts. Yet it’s regrettable that apologists for the state’s genocidal policies are unable to come to terms with gross human rights violations emanating from its colonial-settler construct.

For South Africa though, we are indeed proud of our dockworkers who as members of SATAWU refused to offload a ship from Israel. This historic development reflects the commitment by COSATU that its affiliates will not support the oppression of Palestinians.

Israel’s failure to attain any of its military objectives in Gaza – apart from the merciless terror unleashed by a devastating war machinery – is matched by a failure to win favour in the court of public opinion.

The post-Gaza crisis following the death and destruction caused by Israel with the complicit support of America during Bush’s final term has resulted in a major humanitarian catastrophe. With the crippling siege still in force and Egypt contributing to it by stubbornly maintaining the closure of the Rafah border crossing, Israel cannot be absolved from any of its international obligations as an occupying power.

It must be borne in mind too that the earlier political crisis characterized by expanding illegal settlements, the apartheid wall and crippling checkpoints remain unsolved. Notwithstanding the collaborative role of Mahmoud Abbas, whose political fortunes have taken a huge dip, Israel has created havoc by crippling movement and commerce in the West Bank. Thus such abrasive disregard for the Palestinian Authority and its President, whose term of office expired a few weeks ago, is ample commentary of the rogue status of apartheid Israel. 

The ace served by Dubai’s tennis tournament organizers reveals the power of non-state actors to articulate the quest for justice sought by Palestinians.

– Iqbal Jassat is the Chairman of the Media Review Network ( He contributed this article to

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