Malaysia bars Israeli athletes from World Para Swimming Championships
Malaysian authorities refused late on Thursday to issue travel visas for two Israeli athletes competing in the World Para Swimming Championships 2019 in Kuching, on the island of Borneo, according to local media.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that “we will not allow them to enter. If they come, then it is an offence.” He explained to Malaysian media that it would be against national laws to issue visas for Israelis, as the country does not recognise the state of Israel.
Malaysia also does not maintain any diplomatic ties with it and Malaysian passports include a line noting that they are "valid for all countries except Israel".
If they want to withdraw the championship hosting rights from Malaysia, then they can try to do so
- Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's PM
Tensions between the two countries mounted after Malaysian authorities pointed the finger at Mossad, Israel’s external intelligence service, for being behind the assassination of the Palestinian academic and Hamas member Fadi al-Batsh, in the capital of Kuala Lampur, in April 2018.
Malaysian authorities publicised pictures of two people alleged to be Mossad agents.
The World Para Swimming Championships 2019 are running from 29 July to 4 August.
Pressure from the International Paralympic Committee and the Israeli Olympic Committee on Malaysia to host Israeli athletes resulted in an a threat to withdraw the event from the country.
However, Mahathir Mohamad responded that "if they want to withdraw the championship hosting rights from Malaysia, then they can try to do so."
In the past, Malaysia has refused the entry of Israeli sports squads to participate and compete in tennis tournaments and international sailing competitions.
In August 2016, FIFA revoked Malaysia’s right to host the 2017 FIFA Congress after it refused to issue visas for Israeli delegates and following complaints from Israel to FIFA.
Israel also complained in 2018 to the International Judo Federation about the United Arab Emirates, after the latter refused to display the Israeli flag.
The IJF barred Abu Dhabi from hosting the Judo event but subsequently reinstated it after the Gulf country agreed to allow the Israeli judo team to display its flag and for its competitors to sing the national anthem.