06:34 GMT +319 August 2019
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    Malaysia Denies Visas to Israeli Paralympians

    © AFP 2019 / JOHN THYS
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    Israeli paralympic athletes' hopes to attain Malaysian visas were squashed this week after authorities reiterated that they would not be allowed entry to compete in the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships in Kuching, Borneo.

    Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad spoke with reporters Thursday, saying, "We will not allow them to enter. If they come, then it is an offense." The official continued, explaining that it would be against the law to issue the team visas since Malaysia, a supporter of Palestine, has no diplomatic ties with Israel and does not recognize it as a state.

    Despite two months of pressure from the International Paralympic Committee and the Israeli Olympic Committee, Mohamad went on to stress that he would not be changing his mind on the matter. "If they want to withdraw the championship hosting rights from Malaysia, then they can try to do so," he said.

    Recently, a coalition of 29 non-governmental organizations, including the likes of the Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia, Viva Palestina Malaysia and Al-Quds Foundation Malaysia, voiced their support for the government's decision to bar the Israeli athletes, Malay Mail reported.

    "Boycotting and isolating Israel is the very least that can and should be done to express moral outrage. If it worked against apartheid South Africa, it will work against apartheid Israel," the group said in a statement. "The Malaysian Government is doing the right thing in barring Israelis from this country."

    "Before anyone spews any nonsense about sports and politics not mixing, he or she would do well to remember that in the Great Return March, 241 civilians, including 42 children under 18, five women, three paramedics, two journalists were killed, and 26,140 others injured, almost all by Israeli sharpshooters," the statement continued.

    This incident is not the first time that Malaysia has refused to give visas to Israeli athletes or sports officials. According to the Middle East Eye, the Malaysian government followed the same protocol in past tennis and sailing competitions, and in August 2016 when it was set to host delegates of the 2017 FIFA Congress.

    However, in 2010, Malaysia did issue a special visa for Israeli boxer Ilya Grad so that he could compete on a reality show about boxing. At the time, the then-24-year-old athlete told Ynet News that he agreed to accept the invitation "because of the sportive challenge and in order to be the first person to wave the flag of Israel there."

    The Kuching championship games, which will be running from July 29 to August 4, will play a vital role in determining who will ultimately participate in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.

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    visa, 2019 World Para Swimming Championships, Israel, Malaysia
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