By Danielle Rossingh and Scott Soshnick
Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram will be granted a visa by the United Arab Emirates to play in a tennis tournament next week, U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner said. UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef “Al Otaiba informed me that as a result of our discussions Dubai would issue a visa for Andy Ram to participate in the Dubai Tennis Championship,” Weiner, a Democrat Representative for Brooklyn and Queens, said in an e-mailed statement today.
Another Israeli player, 45th-ranked Shahar Peer, four days ago was denied a visa to take part in this week’s women’s tournament in the Gulf emirate of Dubai. Ram is scheduled to play there in an ATP Tour event starting Feb. 23.
Weiner said he had “made it clear” with the UAE Ambassador in the past few days that the exclusion of Peer was “a setback for a nation that had made commendable efforts to foster understanding and tolerance.”
The ATP World Tour couldn’t immediately be reached for comment today. “Clearly this is an opportunity for Dubai to make the right decision,” Kris Dent, a London-based spokesman for the men’s tennis tour, said yesterday.
Peer was denied an entry visa that would have let her play in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. The $2 million tournament, one of the most lucrative on the women’s WTA Tour outside of the Grand Slams, includes all top 10 players.
WTA head Larry Scott today said the tour had been given assurances from the “highest authorities” in Dubai that an Israeli player would be granted a visa. The WTA will consider canceling next year’s event if Ram is denied a visa, Scott said in an interview.
Last year, Peer received a visa from Qatar to participate in a tournament in Doha, the first Israeli to do so.
Her exclusion from this week’s event was condemned by the WTA and fellow players including five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams. The California-based Tennis Channel decided not to broadcast the tournament in protest. The Wall Street Journal Europe dropped its sponsorship of the tournament, saying the decision to ban Peer “runs counter to the Journal’s editorial direction.”
The World Jewish Congress today called for “suspension of all sporting events in the UAE until Israeli participants are admitted.” The response of the women’s and men’s tours to the exclusion of Peer had been “faint-hearted,” and they should have canceled the event immediately, Ronald Lauder, the group’s president, said in an e-mailed statement.
Israel and the UAE have no diplomatic relations and Israelis are normally denied entry there unless they hold citizenship in other countries.
Anti-Israeli protests before the start of a match Peer played against Elena Dementieva of Russia last month at an event in Auckland had raised “concern” about her wellbeing in Dubai, local organizers said.
Peer’s attendance would have “antagonized our fans who have watched live television coverage of recent attacks in Gaza,” Salah Tahlak, the director of the Dubai event, said yesterday.
In Sweden, security officials are requiring Israel’s Davis Cup first-round home match in Malmo next month to be played behind closed doors, the International Tennis Federation said in an e-mailed statement today.
The world governing body called the decision “very unfortunate because it denies tennis fans in Sweden the opportunity to watch these elite teams compete in the competition.” It said it was “not in the long-term interests” of the Davis Cup.