Sheldon Kirshner

Malaysia’s Mean-Spirited Decision

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a notorious and shameless antisemite, claims he has a “right” to deny Israeli athletes the chance to compete in a forthcoming swimming competition in his predominately Muslim country. Speaking recently at Oxford University’s debating club, the Oxford Union, he argued that governments have “the right to keep their borders closed to certain people.”

He was referred to Malaysia’s unwarranted and unjust decision to bar Israeli swimmers from a Paralympic tournament due to take place in Kuching, on the island of Borneo, in the summer. The championship is important because it’s a qualifying event for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

Mohamad said that Israelis would not be welcomed because Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

The Malaysian foreign minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, confirmed that Malaysia “will not host any more events involving Israel or its representatives.” Malaysia’s deputy sports minister, Sim Hee Kyung, said the decision was rooted in Malaysia’s “protest against the continuous Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people.”

If Malaysia has a right to brazenly discriminate against Israelis, then the International Paralympic Committee has an equal right, as well as a duty, to disqualify Malaysia from hosting the event. The IPC is dedicated to creating inclusivity for athletes with impairments. Mohamad’s intention to ostracize Israeli athletes is an intolerable assault on the IPC’s mission, and should not be allowed to stand.

Nations hosting international sporting events cannot pick and choose which athletes will be admitted. Countries unable to subscribe to this fundamental and sacrosanct principle should be immediately disqualified. Obviously, Malaysia is blatantly flouting IPC rules. Unless Mohamad alters his course and comes to his senses, the president of the IPC, Andrew Parsons, should inform Malaysia forthwith that a new venue will be chosen.

The governing bodies of international sports events and federations must hew to a policy of zero tolerance toward countries that refuse to respect the idea of equal treatment of all athletes, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity and religion.

Malaysia cannot expect “understanding” for its disgusting policy of athletic apartheid.

Nor can Mohamad absolve himself of the well-documented accusation that he’s an antisemite.

At the Oxford Union, he was asked whether it was fair to “penalize” Israeli athletes because of Malaysia’s antipathy to Israel. “Well, it is not to fair to call me antisemitic,” he fatulously replied. “I am not antisemitic, the Arabs are all Semitic people.”

Mohamad’s transparent attempt to change the conversation and distract attention from his despicable record of antisemitism was called into question when he was reminded of his previous comments about Jews. Clinging to malevolent conspiracy theories that would gladden the heart of any neo-Nazi, Mohamad claims that “hook nosed” Jews “are ruling the world by proxy,” and that they possess “an instinctive sense of money.”

Exposed as an antisemite, Mohamad invoked his right to “freedom of speech” and rhetorically asked “why we can’t say anything against Israel, against the Jews?”

Apart from having no qualms about being antisemitic, Mohamad has cynically distorted and downgraded the meaning and significance of the word antisemitism. “Antisemitic is a term that is invented to prevent people from criticizing the Jews for doing wrong things,” he claimed last year.

It’s less than surprising that a man of such deep-seated malice is trying to prevent Israelis from taking part in the Paralympic championship in Malaysia. IPC attempts to reverse his mean-spirited decision will be absolutely futile.

The IPC will have no alternative but to pull the Paralympic tournament out of Malaysia and teach Mohamad a lesson he will likely never forget.



About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,