Tunisian Tennis Federation Lifts Prohibition, Enabling Top Player to Compete Against Israeli
Tunisia’s top tennis player has finally been permitted to compete against an Israeli, after the Tunisian Tennis Federation lifted apparent political restrictions banning its members from playing against athletes from the Jewish state, Tennis.com reported.
According to the report, Malek Jaziri played, and won, a Challenger event last week in Istanbul, against Israel’s Dudi Sela.
This was not the first time Jaziri had acted on purported instructions from Tunisia that he avoid playing Israelis. In 2013, he withdrew from an event in Tashkent, when he was scheduled to play Amir Weintraub. As Reuters reported, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) responded by suspending Tunisia from participating in the Davis Cup, saying it found the country to have “acted in breach of the ITF Constitution by interfering with international sporting practice.”
In 2015, Jaziri retired after the first set of his opening-round match due to an elbow injury, when he was in line to play Sela and Israeli Jonathan Erlich. Some believed that he had been acting in accordance with Tunisian orders to boycott the game. However, the governing body of men’s tennis, the ATP, investigated the matter and found that Jaziri had, in fact, been injured.
According to Tennis.com, Sela said in an interview last year that he and Jaziri got along, even training together on occasion, indicating that the boycott was not a personal decision.
Tunisia has a history of insisting its celebrities boycott Israel. As The Algemeiner reported, Tunisians condemned Hedi Tounsi, a singer popular in that North African nation, when he said in a radio interview that he would happily perform in Israel.
The sporting world saw a spate of anti-Israel actions during the 2016 Rio Olympics, from the Lebanese team physically barring the Israelis from boarding the bus they were meant to share for transportation to the opening ceremonies, to the snub seen around the world, when Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby refused to shake the hand of Or Sasson, after the former lost a match. Sasson went on to win the bronze medal.