Disqualified!

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad faces the media on Monday. Photo: AP Photo/Yam G-Jun

THE International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has stripped Malaysia of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships.

The decision taken by the IPC governing board in London last Sunday followed the country’s Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, barring Israeli competitors from entering Malaysia, which has a blanket ban on Israeli nationals.

“If they want to withdraw Malaysia’s right to host the championship, they can do so,” he said, according to AFP.

Calling his bluff, the IPC board said Malaysia “failed to provide the necessary guarantees that Israeli Para swimmers could participate, free from discrimination, and safely in the Championships”, including full compliance with the IPC protocols related to anthems and flags.

IPC president Andrew Parsons said all championships must be open to all eligible athletes and nations to compete safely and free from discrimination.

“When a host country excludes athletes from a particular nation, for political reasons, then we have absolutely no alternative but to look for a new host,” he said.

“The Paralympic movement has, and always will be, motivated by a desire to drive inclusion, not exclusion.”

Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon thanked the IPC for its “brave decision”.

“This is a victory of values over hatred and bigotry, a strong statement in favour of freedom and equality,” he said.

In the wake of the decision, Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby reiterated his call for Australia to offer itself as an alternative host. “I’m very pleased with the decision of the IPC and I’m hopeful that the Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister and Treasurer [Josh] Frydenberg will exert their influence to have the alternative offered in Sydney, in Homebush,” he said.

“Australia can show the Malaysians how it’s done. We’ll have both the Israelis and the Malaysians participating in the event and there’ll be no discrimination against disabled swimmers in Australia.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Peter Wertheim said the IPC was “fully justified” in stripping Malaysia of the event.

“Mahathir’s blatant attempt to inject politics, and his own personal antisemitic prejudices, into sport by banning Israeli Paralympic swimmers was an utter disgrace,” he said.

“Mahathir has been given his come-uppance, and Malaysia has paid the price for being led by a president who seems incapable of keeping his bigoted opinions to himself.”

ZFA president Jeremy Leibler noted that the IPC’s decision came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“The Malaysian Government is led by an openly antisemitic prime minister who has referred to Jews as having ‘hooked noses’ and grossly minimised the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust,” he said.

“The decision to strip Malaysia of hosting the World Para Swimming Championships is not only the morally correct one, but an important step in unifying different nations through sports, free of politicisation and discrimination.”

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said it was “just common sense” that a country that openly says it will ban athletes because of their nationality “simply cannot host a major event”.

“It is a pity that Mahathir has decided that the noble ideals of the Paralympic movement are of secondary importance to his long-standing, overwhelming hatred for Israel and the Jewish people,” he said.

Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich said he had written to Parsons to applaud the IPC’s decision. “The IPC has taken a strong and brave stance,” he said.

GARETH NARUNSKY