Israeli Under 18 Chess Team Forced to Compete in Abu Dhabi Under False Name
The Israeli under-18 chess team currently competing in the World Youth Chess Championship in Abu Dhabi has been forced to do so without national identification, The Algemeiner has learned.
Shortly after the start of the event, the tournament’s official website removed the Israeli flags and changed the country listing to FIDE – an acronym for Federation Internationale des Echecs or the World Chess Federation – for all Israeli players.
The Israel team includes five players; three boys and two girls. Among them is 10 year old Anastasia Vuller who won the under-10 European Chess Championships two months ago.
Mr. Almog Burstein, Executive Director of the Israeli Chess Federation, told The Algemeiner that the Israeli flag was initially posted on the website but was subsequently taken down.
“I know that on the first day of the tournament it was there, two days later the name and the flag disappeared,” he said.
From his experiences in previous events Burstein said it was likely that “the organizers got instructions from government officials to do so.”
“For them there is no such country as Israel, ” he said.
The Israeli Chess Federation’s website also wrote about what happened in a sarcastic headline entitled: “Now we can reveal that Israel is not competing in the World Championships for young people in Abu Dhabi.”
The Chess News website which reported on the discrimination, said that the move was unprecedented.
“One very unfortunate development concerns the Israeli players and delegation,” the site wrote, going on to describe how the Israelis’ national identities were removed. “It is a very unfortunate precedent for the World Youth, and unheard of until now.”
Israeli daily Ma’ariv, reported that Israel originally hesitated to send its delegation to the Championships because of geopolitical tensions. “I was against sending a team to Abu Dhabi,” Burstein confirmed to The Algemeiner.
Recounting another similar incident from Israel’s past, Burstein indicated that things may be improving for Israeli competitors.
“In 1986 there was a world chess olympiad in Dubai, at that time they didn’t invite Israel and I was a member of a group that organized a protest tournament in Jerusalem… Four countries sympathized with Israel and didn’t go to Dubai. The four countries were Sweden Norway, Denmark and Holland.”
“On that occasion they said very clearly, ‘we can’t and will not invite Israel,’ and nevertheless the World Chess Organization gave them permission to host the olympiad,” he said. Even the U.S. team went to Dubai, he added.
“This was a different situation,” Burstein said, referring to the current competition, “they wanted to have Israel at the championship.”
“I was very surprised to learn that they could play there, but of course without the flag we should have thought about it twice,” he concluded.
In October a similar incident occurred in Qatar, where Israeli swimmers competed in a tournament in which the Israeli flag did not appear.