February 27, 2009
I’ve been meaning to blog about Shahar Peer, the female tennis player from Israel who was denied entry to Dubai for a tournament, for awhile now. Jewcy sums up:
The turnaround comes too late for Ram’s fellow Israeli, Shahar Peer, who was refused a visa on the grounds that her participation might provoke “fan anger” in the wake of Israel’s recent war with Hamas in Gaza. The women’s competition is already underway and Peer is absent – not because her performance isn’t up to scratch, but because of her Israeli passport. Ram’s exemption from the ban appears to be the result of external pressure – in protest at the Peer decision, the Tennis Channel in the US said it wouldn’t broadcast the event, while the Wall Street Journal European edition pulled its sponsorship – and not any soul-searching on the part of the UAE’s rulers. The emirate’s terse statement announcing that Ram would, after all, be allowed in, didn’t provide a reason as to why and studiously avoided any mention of the words “Israel” or “Israeli.”
Thanks to this rather undignified violation of fundamental sporting ethics, Dubai’s self-image has taken something of a battering. Dubai likes to present itself as an exception in the Arab world; Ibiza, if you will, set to a Middle Eastern rhythm, with all the attendant wealth and glamor and sun-drenched hedonism. The migrant workers who built its shimmering facade, most of them drawn from South Asian countries and living in wretched conditions, have long known the sordid truth. Yet it took the exclusion of an Israeli celebrity to achieve something that the daily trials of thousands of nameless Bangladeshi laborers could never do: persuade the world to look at Dubai a little more cynically. As the Wall Street Journal acidly observed, “a city-state that fancies itself a global mecca for commerce, sport and recreation ought to be able to handle a few Jews in its cosmopolitan midst.” Yes, and they might want to tackle these constant reports about slavery as well.