NEW YORK (JTA) — The World Jewish Congress called on the International Olympic Committee to bar Iran from the 2012 Games until the country allows its athletes to compete against Israelis.
The WJC’s complaint comes in the wake of a withdrawal by an Iranian swimmer, Mohammed Alirezaei, from a race in Shanghai last week in which an Israeli was participating. Although Alireazei claimed he was “tired and drowsy,” and denied political reasons, according to the WJC, he used a similar excuse at the 2008 Olympics when he refused to compete in a race that included Israeli Tom Beeri.
“Iran’s behavior is unsportmanlike and smacks of anti-Semitism,” WJC President Ronald Lauder said in the statement. “It must be stopped!”
The WJC urged that Iran be banned from other international sporting events, as well.
The chairman of Iran’s National Olympic Committee, Mohammad Ali Abadi, said in an interview last year that Iranian athletes should boycott all competitions in which Israeli athletes participate, and in February he threatened to boycott the 2012 London Olympics over its logo — a stylized 2012 that Tehran claimed spelled Zion.
Sports in Iran are highly politicized. In 2009 four Iranian soccer players received lifelong bans for wearing green armbands in solidarity with protesters during a match, and last year an Iranian was kicked off his team after competing against an Israeli in the World Masters Weightlifting Championship.