MELBOURNE, Australia (JTA) — Threats of pro-Palestinian protests in Australia against Israeli tennis star Shahar Pe’er failed to materialize.
There were few Israelis and fewer Israeli flags — and no Palestinian protesters — among the 10,000-plus fans for Pe’er’s match Saturday on center court against Caroline Wozniack of Denmark. Wozniacki, seeded fourth, defeated the 29th-seeded Pe’er, 6-4, 6-0, in the third round of the Australian Open.
Demonstrators had targeted Pe’er, 22, at a tournament earlier this month in Auckland, New Zealand.
The Melbourne-based Australians for Palestine had threatened to protest at the Australian Open against “the unofficial recruiting officer for the country’s armed forces,” but a seclusion zone was imposed around the Rod Laver Arena.
In response to the group, which calls for a sports boycott against the “apartheid state,” Peer told reporters, “It’s unfair because I have nothing to do with politics. I’m only a tennis player who wants to enjoy the tour like other players.”
Peer said that she was not distracted by the security in Melbourne.
"I know that there is security going on around me, and I don’t know exactly how much but I really feel safe," she told the French news agency AFP. "I’m just focusing on playing tennis. I’m not here to focus on my security or whatever’s going on outside the court."
Pe’er is headed for her first appearance in Dubai next month after being refused a visa last year to play in a tournament there shortly after Israel launched a military operation in the Gaza Strip. Her denial sparked an international furor.