The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday criticized Swedish authorities for banning spectators from a Davis Cup tennis match between Sweden and Israel.
Officials cited security concerns for the closed-door policy in the city of Malmo because anti-Israeli demonstrations are expected during the best-of-five series on March 6-8.
Malmo, Sweden's third largest city, has a left-leaning local government and a large Muslim minority. Its leaders have strongly criticized Israel over the Gaza invasion, and some have called for the Davis Cup match to be dropped altogether.
The ADL slammed the move as a "blatant attempt to politically exploit an international sporting competition," accusing the Malmo city council of using the tennis matches "as a device to express anti-Israel bias."
Thd ADL cited Malmo's mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, who was quoted as saying "We shouldn't have any matches with Israel."
"Sports should not be politicized, and the eagerness of Malmo city officials to use this tennis match to demonstrate their anti-Israel prejudice is a blatant attempt to politically exploit an international sporting competition," said Abe Foxman, the ADL's national director.
"Barring Swedes from coming to support their own national team in the most prestigious international men's tennis team competition shows how far Malmo city officials are willing to go to express their hostility toward Israel," Foxman said.
Foxman added that the decision to bar fans was made despite police assessments that adequate security measures were in place to allow the event to be held as planned.
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