South African Rugby Union Disinvites Tel Aviv Team
The Tel Aviv rugby team was disinvited by the South African Rugby Union (SARU) on February 3rd from an upcoming rugby tournament that was scheduled in March.
Mark Alexander, the SARU President, said that they had opted to disinvite the Tel Aviv Heat team from attending the Mzansi Challenge Rugby Tournament that was to take place on March 24th.
The president said that they had come to this decision after they had heard the opinion of the prominent stakeholder groups because they did not want the competition to cause division.
The decision of SARU did not sit well with Jewish groups. On February 15th, Sir Bill Beaumont, the chairman of World Rugby received a letter from Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.
The chief executive said in the letter that pressure from the BDS movement had resulted in the decision from SARU.
He said that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is anti-Israel and is aimed at marginalizing and demonizing Israel in every possible way, including the sporting world.
He went on to say that in the last couple of years, it had become common to politicize sporting events and Israeli athletes have suffered because of it.
The CEO said that the mission statement of World Rugby is to ensure that rugby is inclusive and accessible for everyone.
Therefore, he asked World Rugby to highlight the matter and take steps to ensure there is no discrimination of the Israeli team and that they are allowed to participate in the tournament.
Arsen Ostrovsky, the CEO of the International Legal Forum (ILF), also wrote a letter to Alexander on February 15th.
It said that Alexander had not consulted with the Teal Aviv Heat team before the decision was made. Ostrovsky said that it was apparent that the SA Rugby Union had taken the decision independently.
He asserted that it was a cowardly move and the union had just caved in to extremists and groups that are anti-Israel.
He added that South Africa should understand the power of sport, especially rugby, and should use it for promoting tolerance, teamwork, peace and for bringing people together.
The ILF CEO said that the decision of excluding the Tel Aviv rugby team was a violation of the inclusivity clauses in the SARU constitution as well as the handbook of World Rugby.
He disclosed that the ILF was looking into all potential actions that could be taken, including filing a formal complaint with the World Rugby body about the actions of SARU.
A statement from StandWithUs said that they were in agreement with the Tel Aviv team, which had asserted that this step would only lead to more division in South Africa.
They had also said that it was opposite of the core values promoted by rugby because it is promoting retribution and hatred.
In addition, they also added that it was leaving the Tel Aviv Heat team and their supporters vulnerable to hateful and aggressive language that would be aimed at silencing, delegitimizing and intimidating.