Everyone (i.e., me) rode the United Arab Emirates for denying an Israeli tennis player entry to their country, but judging by Sweden’s reaction to a similar problem, the Mid-East nation looks like the sensible one.
The Israeli Davis Cup team is taking on Sweden this weekend in front of an empty arena in Malmo. No spectators were allowed in because anti-Israeli protesters threatened to disrupt the match. Of course, not being inside did not deter the angry mob. They stormed the arena, threw rocks, bottles and firecrackers at police and generally made a giant mess of things in the street. Because tennis players run the world, I guess?
The Israeli players criticized the decision to close the stadium. Watching this video of an enraged European mob coming after the Jews, however, I’m not sure the authorities had much choice.
Update: on February 27, ESPN tennis blogger Peter Bodo wondered whether the Malmo authorities were deliberately trying to embarrass the Israelis:
Here’s the problem: Malmo has a significant Muslim population and a left-leaning civic leadership that is angry at Israel. Therefore, they’ve decided to hold the tie behind closed doors — meaning, no spectators allowed — under the laughable claim that they can’t provide adequate security. Get this: The tie will be played in the easily controlled, indoor environment of the Baltic Hall, which has a capacity (4,077) smaller than that of some junior college gyms.
There can be only one reason for how this has come about: The town fathers in Malmo, and perhaps the leadership of the Swedish federation itself, desperately wants this tie to be controversial — wants to see it played behind closed doors, in order to somehow suggest that Israel is a pariah nation — thereby advancing anti-Israel sentiment.
Malmo is bracing for an influx of demonstrators against Israel, which also plays right into the hands of those who wish to embarrass Israel. What could be better, in terms of advancing the agenda, than having streets full of demonstrators and a visiting nation that can’t be allowed to show its flag? This is a crude and astonishing example of using the Davis Cup as a political football.