U.S. Chess Federation Warns Against Making Israel a Pawn in the 1986 International Chess Olympics

The United States Chess Federation will send a team to the 1986 International Chess Olympics in Dubai, United Arab Emirates — from which Israel’s team has been barred — but will insist on an end to such exclusions and will walk out of the tournament if its demand is not met, it was disclosed Sunday.

The decision both to participate in the tournament and to raise the issue at the meetings of the Federation Internationals des Echecs (FIDE) that will take place during the tournament in November was adopted as a compromise after more than two hours of debate at the U.S. Federation’s convention here, according to Glenn Petersen, a regional vice president of the American chess body.

Commenting on the U.S. Federation’s decision, Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said: "While we would have preferred that the American team boycott the tournament because Israel has been barred, we recognize the goodwill effort of the U.S. Federation to deal with the matter, and to make clear that it will quit the games if its demand to prevent any future recurrence of the bar against Israel is not satisfied."

Abram had written an open letter to all delegates to the U.S. Chess Federation’s convention here charging that Dubai’s refusal to permit Israeli participation in the 1986 chess Olympics "establishes a dangerous and destructive precedent for the International Chess Federation and for international sports generally." He added: "The absence of a U.S. team will send a clear message to the world that our country will not tolerate bigotry or prejudice but will consistently advocate equal opportunity for all."

A resolution calling on the U.S. Federation not to take part in the Dubai games was introduced at the organization’s convention here this weekend with the strong support of Lev Alburt, a former Soviet Jewish refusenik who is the current U.S. chess champion. That resolution was withdrawn in favor of the compromise proposal, according to the U.S. Chess Federation spokesman.

The resolution that was passed, introduced by another chess master, Gary Sperling, made these main points:

The U.S. Chess Federation will participate in the 1986 Olympics.

At the FIDE meeting that will be held in Dubai during the tournament, the U.S. Federation will introduce a resolution that would overturn the present FIDE by-law that permits any state hosting an international tournament to bar any other country with which it is at war. As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has been technically in a state of war with Israel since the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948. The resolution is worded so that any country which insists on barring any other because it claims to be at war will no longer be permitted to serve as host for the international chess Olympics.

If the American resolution is rejected, the U.S. team will quit the 1986 games, even if play has not been completed.

Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R.-N.Y.) had also written to the U.S. Chess Federation calling for a boycott of the games. "Our country should not give comfort to those who seek to inject their self-serving political purposes into the apolitical world of sports," D’Amato wrote.

Israel had expressed firm opposition to holding the games in Dubai. Gershon Gan, Consul for Information at the Israel Consulate in New York, wrote to Alburt, declaring: "The government of Israel has and will remain constant in its unequivocal opposition to the holding of sporting competitions at venues from which Israel is barred."

NEXT STORY