NEW YORK (JTA) — Several Jewish leaders are urging New York State lawmakers not to legalize mixed martial arts in the state, citing the role that Abu Dhabi plays in the sport.
In a letter to state lawmakers shared exclusively with the Daily News, 17 leaders said that the United Arab Emirates country, which does not recognize the State of Israel, owns a 10 percent stake in the sport’s biggest league, Ultimate Fighting Championship. Among those who signed the letter are the executive vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis, Joseph Potasnik, and Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a City University of New York trustee and board member of numerous Jewish organizations.
The letter notes that the Anti-Defamation League recently ranked Abu Dhabi as one of the most anti-Semitic countries in the world.
“This is a country that refuses to recognize Israel as a nation, refuses to allow Israeli citizens to travel in their country, and has banned the teaching of the Holocaust in their schools,” the letter says.
It is believed to be the first objection to the sport on Jewish or pro-Israel grounds.
“At a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise, we cannot stand by while Albany cuts a deal with a company whose profits will go directly into the hands of an enemy of Israel,” the letter says. “It is our hope that New York will continue its proud tradition as a staunch friend to the Jewish community by rejecting the legalization of mixed martial arts and saying no to a company and country that is clearly no friend of Israel.”
Ultimate Fighting Championship officials responded by saying that Abu Dhabi is a United States ally and has business dealings with numerous New York developers, including Jewish ones.