World Jewish Congress Rips Indonesia for Banning Entry to Israeli Badminton Player Misha Zilberman
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) blasted Indonesia on Friday for denying an entry visa to Israeli badminton player Misha Zilberman and criticized authorities in the country for “unfairly mixing politics and sports.”
“Let’s be clear about this: Here we have yet another blatant attempt to mix politics and sports, and to exclude Israeli athletes from international competitions,” said WJC CEO Robert Singer. “If this decision is upheld, it will do harm to Indonesia’s standing in the world, and it will raise the question whether this is the right place to hold such prestigious events.”
According to WJC, Zilberman, 26, was denied the visa despite submitting his application six months ago and providing all the necessary documentation. The visa would allow the athlete to compete in the World Badminton Championships held in Jakarta next week.
The Times of India reported that according to Indonesian immigration regulations, Israelis who wish to visit the country must obtain a special visa in Bangkok or Singapore after getting a sponsorship letter from Indonesian officials.
Singer called on Indonesia to immediately grant Zilberman the required visa, saying, “This decision to bar an Israeli player from an international sporting competition can’t stand and I urge Indonesia to allow Misha Zilberman to compete in these championships.”
The Jewish leader also criticized the Badminton World Federation (BWF), the organization behind the competition, for its inaction on the issue and for declining to assist Zilberman. Singer said the incident “casts a shadow” on the sporting event and that BWF’s failure to use its leverage on the matter “speaks volumes.”
“If athletes are excluded on political grounds, at the very least there should be some soul-searching going on,” he continued.
Zilberman, who represented Israel at the London Olympics in 2012, took to Facebook earlier this week to express his frustration with the BWF.
“After six months of exchanging letters, and after sending all the documents they requested, and after we arrived in Singapore, they are saying no. The World Badminton Federation knew about this and didn’t help,” he wrote. “They preferred to ignore it and just waited for it to pass. After two weeks in Singapore waiting for a visa they are probably sending me home instead of to the World Championships.”
The BWF has not commented on the issue.
Yuni Kartika, a spokeswoman for the Indonesian Badminton Association, said the organization was pushing authorities to grant Zilberman a visa before the week-long sporting event begins on Monday, The Times of India said. She added that the Indonesian immigration department told the association that Zilberman’s visa application was still being processed but refused to explain the delay.