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Major Jewish groups urge US rugby team to pull out of South Africa tournament

A letter signed by ADL, AJC, the Conference of Presidents and the Brandeis Center, among others, condemns the alleged antisemitic exclusion of Israel’s professional rugby team.

Tel Aviv Heat rugby team. Credit:
Tel Aviv Heat rugby team. Credit:

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law published a letter urging the U.S. rugby team—the San Clemente Rhinos—to pull out of the Mzansi Challenge competition in South Africa scheduled on March 26. This follows a request several days ago by UK Lawyers for Israel for the International Olympic Committee to intervene to ensure that an Israeli team be allowed to participate.

“Your obligation to lead on this issue is particularly pressing because there is an unacceptable appearance that the San Clemente Rhinos are benefiting from discrimination against the Heat,” the letter states, referring to the Tel Aviv Heat rugby team.

The letter was signed by the Brandeis Center, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Christians United for Israel Action Fund, Combat Antisemitism Movement, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Israeli-American Coalition for Action, Jewish Federations of North America, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs and Zionist Organization of America.

The Brandeis Center is the Heat’s new legal team.

The Heat was confirmed to participate in the tournament for months until anti-Israel activists pressured the South Africa Rugby Union (SARU) to rescind their invitation. The move was praised by the South African BDS Coalition, the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and the South African newspaper Al-Qalam as a victory for the anti-Israel BDS movement.

The letter emphasizes that sports are meant to be inclusive, and that international sports have repeatedly rejected discrimination against Israeli teams and athletes. Examples provided include the World Paralympic Committee relocating its 2019 Swimming Championships out of Malaysia after issuing a ban on Israeli athletes, as well as canceling judo events in the United Arab Emirates and Tunisia because the host countries would not allow Israeli flags to be displayed.

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