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9 Feb, 2024 17:44

Irish team refuses handshake with Israeli opponents

The women’s basketball squad snubbed their rivals over allegations of anti-Semitism
Irish team refuses handshake with Israeli opponents

The Irish women’s basketball team have refused to shake hands with their Israeli opponents at a game in Latvia, after Israeli player Dor Saar accused their counterparts of being “quite anti-Semitic.”

Ireland met Israel at a EuroBasket 2025 qualifying game in Riga on Thursday. In a break with normal protocol, Basketball Ireland announced before the match that its team would not participate in the “exchanging of gifts, [or] formal handshakes before or after the game, while our players will line up for the Irish national anthem by our bench, rather than the center court.”

The statement came after the Israeli Basketball Association published an interview with Saar on Tuesday, during which the player accused her Irish counterparts of anti-Semitism.

“It’s known that they are quite anti-Semitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected,” Saar said. “We talk about it among ourselves, we know they don’t like us and we will always leave everything on the field and in this game especially.”

Basketball Ireland reported Saar’s comments to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), calling them “inflammatory and wholly inaccurate.”

Prior to the game with Israel, Basketball Ireland put out a statement saying it was “very concerned about the events unfolding in Gaza and… extremely sympathetic to the dreadful situation that people are having to deal with.” The organization revealed it had approached FIBA to discuss pulling out of two scheduled clashes with Israel, but was warned that the Irish team would be fined up to €180,000 ($195,000) and barred from EuroBasket 2025 and 2027.

“Basketball Ireland remains obliged to fulfill the fixture on February 8th,” the statement concluded.

Public support for the Palestinian cause runs high in Ireland, particularly among supporters of the Sinn Fein party, whose leaders maintained cordial relations with Hamas even after ceasing their armed struggle against Britain. A poll taken last month found that 71% of the Irish public view Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as “apartheid,” while 62% supported sanctioning the Jewish state over its ongoing war in Gaza.

Israel won the game 87-57, with the Israeli Basketball Association stating that the victory came “despite the lack of sportsmanship of the visiting team.”