Out! Dubai bars Israeli star from tennis tournament

Shahar Peer, a 21-year-old Israeli tennis player, was yesterday at the centre of a sporting controversy that could have implications throughout the Arab world. Peer was due to play in this week's Dubai Tennis Championships but she was informed that the United Arab Emirates had refused to grant her a visa.

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) said it was "deeply disappointed" by the decision and hinted that it might scrap the tournament in future years. The loss of the event would be a major setback to the UAE, while the repercussions could be felt elsewhere in the Gulf, where huge amounts have been invested in bringing top-level sport and tourists to the region.

Last year, Peer became the first Israeli to compete in a professional women's tennis event in a Gulf state when she played in the Qatar Open in Doha. Her brother, Shlomi Peer, said yesterday that she had applied for a visa for the UAE months in advance, and had been assured by the tournament that she would be allowed entry.

A statement by the organiser, Dubai Duty Free, which is owned by the UAE government, confirmed that the visa had not been granted but gave no explanation. There will inevitably be speculation that the decision was made in response to Israel's recent actions in Gaza. Qatar suspended some low-level contacts in protest at Israel's military offensive. Although the UAE has no diplomatic ties with Israel, some Israelis have entered the Emirates for sporting and business events using passports issued elsewhere. Israeli passport holders have also attended meetings there organised by the UN or other international agencies.

The Women's Tennis Association has a rule that no host country should deny a player the chance to compete at a tournament for which she has qualified. Peer, who did national service in the Israeli army, was entitled to play in Dubai through her ranking. She is currently the world No.48.

Larry Scott, chairman and chief executive of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the body that supervises the tournament, described the UAE's decision as "regrettable". The Tour considered abandoning this week's tournament but allowed it to proceed "pending further review", he said.

He added: "Ms Peer and her family are obviously extremely upset and disappointed by the decision of the UAE and its impact on her personally and professionally, and the Tour is reviewing appropriate remedies for Ms Peer and also will review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament."

Fellow players came out in support of Peer, who was the subject of protests by spectators at a tournament in New Zealand last month. "We're athletes," said the reigning Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, of the US. "We are not standing for anything except good tennis. That's all she's standing for. I think all the players have to stand together in whatever direction we go in."

In Israel there was concern that Dubai's action might set a precedent. "This is not just about Israel," said a foreign ministry spokesman. "For international sports events, you need to relegate politics to the political sphere. Can you imagine the Olympic Games with only friends of the host country participating?"

However, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel welcomed Peer's exclusion. "During apartheid rule in South Africa, a similar sports boycott contributed significantly to isolating the state and treating it as an international pariah," spokesman Omar Barghouti said.

"Israel, with its occupation, denial of refugee rights and system of racial discrimination deserves exactly the same treatment."

Suggested Topics
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker