On another day than Monday, I would have missed this in The New York Times, because six days a week the Gray Lady buries its sports coverage in the Business pages, and I rarely make it that far back into that section.
I don’t much follow tennis anymore, and until my lunchtime reading today had never heard of Shahar Peer, the Israeli player who is now ranked 48th in the world and has apparently been ranked as high as 15th in the past.
But Harvey Araton’s column caught my eye, and its sordid tale recalled to me the irrefutable and usually swept-under-the-rug institutional anti-Semitism — anti-Jewish-ism, actually, as most in the Mideast are Semites themselves — the rest of the world allows the Arab world to practice without comment or protest.
Peer was denied a visa to play in a big tournament in Dubai for the simple fact that she is an Israeli citizen — or, rather, a Jewish Israeli citizen, as presumably if she were a Palestinian holding an Israeli passport, she would have been welcomed into the United Arab Emirates with open arms.
What if the reverse were the case — what if she were an Arab, and denied entry into Israel for the purpose of playing in a Tel Aviv tournament? From Rotterdam to Moscow to Riyadh, we’d never hear the end of it.
Half to its credit, the Women’s Tennis Association Tour at least considered cancelling the tournament because of this racist outrage. Now it says that it will instead give Dubai until next year to clean up its despicable act. Peer and her family say they support the move, especially as Dubai was playing games with the visa application, and didn’t formally deny it until the 11th hour, when all the rest of the 55 women players invited were already on their way to the little fiefdom by the sea.
This kind of stuff has gone on for decades. When I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, we were warned not to try to get back “in-kingdom” from R&R with an Israeli stamp in our passport. If we had to go there, we were told, ask the authorities to stamp a blank piece of paper we would carry in our passports, to be discarded before returning to our discriminating place of employment.
Vicious anti-Semitism in the government-sponsored Arab press is the rule rather than the exception, and no one says boo.
The WTA should get a ruling right now one way or another from Dubai for next year. If the answer is no Jews served here, then it should fold the tournament tent, forever.