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
Sport
John Terry puts Chelsea ahead
football
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David performs in his play ‘Fish in the Dark'
theatreFish in the Dark has already generated a record $14.5m in advance ticket sales
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tvReview: Too often The Casual Vacancy resembled a jumble of deleted scenes from Hot Fuzz
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
news
Arts and Entertainment
Jemima West in Channel 4's Indian Summers (Joss Barratt/Channel 4)
tvReview: More questions and plot twists keep viewers guessing
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.

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003