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Sunday, March 01, 2009

'An obvious political stunt'

Tennis is being politicized yet again with Israel being required to play a Davis Cup match against Sweden next week indoors in the heavily Muslim town of Malmo on the purported grounds that the security of the Israeli team cannot be guaranteed (Hat Tip: Power Line).
What is not comprehensible is why the Swedish Tennis Federation or the International Tennis Federation (of which Sweden is a member) hasn't stepped in to act on two important fronts as this tie approaches:

1. To diffuse the developing situation by moving the tie to a less dangerous location in Sweden -- or elsewhere.

2. To ensure the safety of the players and protect the integrity of Davis Cup.

Here's the problem: Malmo has a significant Muslim population and a left-leaning civic leadership that is angry at Israel. Therefore, they've decided to hold the tie behind closed doors -- meaning, no spectators allowed -- under the laughable claim that they can't provide adequate security. Get this: The tie will be played in the easily controlled, indoor environment of the Baltic Hall, which has a capacity (4,077) smaller than that of some junior college gyms.

There can be only one reason for how this has come about: The town fathers in Malmo, and perhaps the leadership of the Swedish federation itself, desperately wants this tie to be controversial -- wants to see it played behind closed doors, in order to somehow suggest that Israel is a pariah nation -- thereby advancing anti-Israel sentiment.

Malmo is bracing for an influx of demonstrators against Israel, which also plays right into the hands of those who wish to embarrass Israel. What could be better, in terms of advancing the agenda, than having streets full of demonstrators and a visiting nation that can't be allowed to show its flag? This is a crude and astonishing example of using the Davis Cup as a political football.


By allowing this tie to become so heavily and transparently politicized, the Swedish federation has lost its right to promote and stage it. The ITF must intervene, immediately, to threaten Sweden with suspension from Davis Cup if it doesn't either move the tie or open the doors of the Baltic Hall to the public (and provide adequate security). Better yet, the ITF should take the tie from the Swedes and stage it itself, perhaps at a neutral site or in Israel.

We're on the verge of witnessing one of the most outrageous and transparent political stunts in the history of tennis, and no matter how you feel about the tensions and events in the Middle East, allowing the Davis Cup to be used to advance such an obvious agenda is a dereliction of duty.

And that duty to preserve and protect the integrity of Davis Cup is primarily the job of the ITF.
Unfortunately, Israel has a long and painful history of being regarded as a pariah in international sports competitions, a history that peaked with the Munich massacre in 1972, during which International Olympic Committee chairman Avery Brundage decreed that the 'games must go on.' It's a history that is constantly being embellished.

Here's the Davis Cup web page that describes the Israel - Sweden match. Note that there is no indication that the matches are to be played without spectators present. I wonder what would happen if someone tried to buy tickets. Hmmm.


At 7:07 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel should boycott the event and forfeit the match. The humiliation isn't worth a win.

At 7:41 PM, Blogger Charles said...

Does the Davis Cup organization and/or the hosts of matches make any guarantees to the teams regarding the circumstances of the matches? E.g, quality of the courts, open to the public, etc. If those warrantees are to be broken, Israel should certainly boycott but refuse to accept a forfeit as the hosts are violating a contract.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I'd be satisfied if they protested. So far they have not.


I'm not aware of any guarantees, but I'm also not aware of any other matches that have been played under these circumstances. The article suggests that were the match to be played in Stockholm they would not have these issues, which makes you wonder why the Davis Cup organizers have not forced the Swedes to move the match.


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