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World Rugby says pulling Israel from tournament wasn’t discriminatory

“We expected World Rugby to take a closer look at the events leading up to the withdrawal of the invitation,” says Tel Aviv Heat CEO Pete Sickle.

Tel Aviv Heat rugby team. Source: Twitter.
Tel Aviv Heat rugby team. Source: Twitter.

World Rugby, the world’s governing body for the sport, has ruled that the South African Rugby Union’s decision to disinvite an Israeli team from a competition in February wasn’t discrimination.

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) announced The Tel Aviv Heat’s participation on Feb. 2. However, the following day, the body announced that Israel’s first professional rugby team would not be welcome due to backlash from unidentified “stakeholders.”

SARU later cited security concerns as the reason for the withdrawal, and World Rugby in its recent decision accepted this explanation.

Tel Aviv Heat CEO Pete Sickle expressed disappointment with the ruling.

“We expected World Rugby to take a closer look at the events leading up to the withdrawal of the invitation,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We still have not seen tangible evidence of credible and significant threats to public safety. We haven’t seen any evidence of SARU or South African security forces analyzing those threats before making this decision,” he added.

Anti-Israel groups, among them the South African BDS Coalition, the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the South African newspaper Al-Qalam, praised the move as a victory for the anti-Israel BDS movement.

Last month, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, the Heat’s new legal team, published a letter urging the U.S. rugby team—the San Clemente Rhinos—to pull out of the Mzansi Challenge competition in South Africa.

In February, the Israel-based NGO International Legal Forum (ILF) sent a letter to South Africa Rugby in protest.

“We can only deduce … that SA Rugby took the independent decision to cowardly cave in to extremist anti-Israel forces and groups promoting the racist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel in South Africa,” the letter said.

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