JERUSALEM (JTA) – The Tennis Channel canceled its coverage of a Dubai tournament over the decision not to grant an entry visa to an Israeli player.
The United Arab Emirates on Feb. 14 informed Shahar Pe’er that it would not allow her to enter the country to play in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships with its $2 million first prize. Pe’er, ranked 48th in the world, was scheduled to play Russian Anna Chakvetadze in the first round.
“The entire field of competitors is diminished by this happening," Ken Solomon, the chairman and chief executive of The Tennis Channel network, told The New York Times. "It hurts them all. Shahar earned the right to be in the tournament. She’s been on a roll and could have won it. It’s just hard to imagine this happening in this day and age.”
Larry Scott, chairman and chief executive officer of the Women’s Tennis Association, told the Times that UAE officials did not tell him why Pe’er was denied a visa, though he said Israel’s recent military action in Gaza may have played a large part in the decision. He told the newspaper, however, that he knew for the last year that it would be difficult for Pe’er to get permission to play in Dubai.
Meanwhile, a major U.S. tour company canceled its tours to Dubai because of the visa incident. IsramWorld — which operates tours to 56 countries on five continents, including Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey — called the UAE’s decision "an odious act of political bigotry."
"It reveals that despite its massive investment in tourism infrastructure, Dubai appears not ready to be a member of the world tourism family," said A. Ady Gelber, president and CEO of IsramWorld. "I am deeply disappointed in the UAE’s decision, one that seems to spell a return to the grim dark days of division and discrimination."