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16 Jan, 2019 13:58

‘Fighting on behalf of the oppressed’: Malaysia bans Israeli athletes in solidarity with Palestine

‘Fighting on behalf of the oppressed’: Malaysia bans Israeli athletes in solidarity with Palestine

The Malaysian government has banned Israeli participants from a Paralympic swimming competition scheduled for July, stating that the country will not host any events in future involving Israel in solidarity with Palestine.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said on Wednesday that no Israeli competitor will be allowed to participate in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, a tournament which serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.

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The minister also emphasized that the country will never host any event involving Israel, as an expression of strong support for Palestinians, who the predominantly Muslim Malaysia considers to be oppressed.

The cabinet has also decided that Malaysia will not host any more events involving Israel or its representatives. This is to me, a decision to reflect the government’s firm stance over the Israeli issue,” Saifuddin said, AP reported.

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We are looking at the Palestinian issue not simply from the religious point of view... it is a humanitarian, human rights issue. It is about fighting on behalf of the oppressed… It’s about fighting on behalf of the oppressed,” he added.

Like the majority of Muslim countries, Malaysia doesn’t have diplomatic ties with Israel, and the Palestinian issue is the main stumbling block in relations between the two states.

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Israel’s Paralympic Committee said it was disappointed by Malaysia’s decision, but expressed hope that parties could “find the right solution before July.”

The Malaysian government said it will stand firm on the issue, ignoring a threat that they could be stripped of hosting rights by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

The 2019 World Para Swimming Championships is set take place in eastern Sarawak state from July 29 till August 4.