Update: On January 12, 2014, the Vitesse football team issued the following statement:
“In retrospect, different organizations have said there were options to make it possible to travel to the UAE with Mori, who is Israeli. The complexity around organizing travel to countries with specific entry procedures in a short space of time meant not all the options were utilized. Vitesse regrets the commotion and offers apologies to everyone who feels in any way affected by the decision to exclude Mori.”
Once again, the United Arab Emirates has reportedly acted to prevent an Israeli athlete from entering the country to participate in a local sporting event. According to news reports, Dutch soccer team Vitesse Arnhem was informed on Saturday that Israeli squad member Dan Mori would not be allowed to travel to Abu Dhabi for upcoming soccer matches, despite previous assurances that Mori would be admitted. Vitesse Arnhem decided to travel to the UAE without Mori, a move that drew criticism from Dutch politicians and organizations.
The most well-known incident involving an Israeli athlete being barred from the UAE occurred in 2009 when tennis player Shahar Peer was refused a visa to participate in the Dubai Tennis Championship. As a result, a number of international tennis stars, including Venus Williams, publically condemned the visa rejection, and Andy Roddick, the 2008 men’s singles champion, withdrew from the tournament. The Dubai tournament was heavily fined for its actions. Although Peer was granted a visa to participate in subsequent years, her access and mobility were severely limited by the UAE.
A more recent episode occurred in December 2013, when the Israeli under-18 chess team competed in the World Youth Chess Championship in Dubai. According to reports, the UAE had initially refused to allow the Israeli team to compete, but reversed its decision after FIDE – the World Chess Federation – threatened to nullify the tournament.
The difficulties encountered by Israeli athletes exist not just in the UAE but across the broader Arab world, and even when Israelis are permitted to participate they often encounter severe prejudice. An example of this occurred during the October 2013 FINA Swimming World Cup tournament in Doha, Qatar, when organizers reportedly removed an Israeli flag from outside the aquatic center where the event was taking place, and TV coverage of a race involving an Israeli swimmer covered over the Israeli flag on the screen. And during the same month, the Tunisian Tennis Federation was suspended from the Davis Cup for one year after Tunisian player Malek Jaziri refused to play a Davis Cup match against Israeli Amir Weintraub.
Most international sporting associations require that hosts facilitate the participation of all athletes, regardless of ethnicity or nationality.