SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated in New Zealand against Israel’s top-ranked women’s tennis player amid a bomb scare in the arena.
Shahar Pe’er, 22, was delayed from entering the arena for her opening match in the ASB Tennis Classic in Auckland for about 20 minutes Tuesday after an unattended bag in the ASB Tennis Centre prompted the bomb scare.
Police said that clearing about 500 people from the arena and closing the surrounding streets were unrelated to the small band of protesters who had gathered outside to urge Pe’er to withdraw from the tournament, according to Reuters.
Pe’er, ranked No. 30 in the world, eventually won her match in straight sets.
The organization Global Peace and Justice Auckland said in a news release that it had written to Pe’er asking her to withdraw from the tournament “as a demonstration of your commitment to peace” with the Palestinians.
Acknowledging it was asking Pe’er to make “a significant sacrifice,” the group added, “The sacrifices being forced onto Palestinians by Israel are far greater and she should be prepared to make the sacrifice.”
Global Peace and Justice, which supports a sports boycott against Israel, staged a similar demonstration against Pe’er at the same event last year.
“I have nothing to do with this,” Pe’er said at the time. “I’m Shahar Pe’er. I came here to play tennis. I know I’m from Israel and I’m proud of my country.”