Wall Street Journal drops Dubai sponsorship after Israeli tennis player denied visa
Shahar Peer reportedly banned from tournament due to fan anger over Israel's Gaza offensive.
The Wall Street Journal Europe dropped its sponsorship of the current Dubai tennis tournament after the United Arab Emirates refused to issue a visa to Israel's star tennis player Shahar Peer.
Peer was reportedly denied the visa due to fan anger over Israel's recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip. UAE officials said that they feared riots could break out.
"The Wall Street Journal's editorial philosophy is free markets and free people, and this action runs counter to the Journal's editorial direction," the Wall Street Journal Europe said in a statement Wednesday.
The Journal's parent company, Dow Jones & Co, is owned by Rupert Murdoch's international media conglomerate News Corp.
The Tennis Channel has also canceled plans to televise the women's tournament in light of the Peer incident.
Meanwhile Wednesday, a prominent group of Jewish American leaders urged the Women's Tennis Association to punish the United Arab Emirates for banning Peer from entering the country for the tournament.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also called on international tennis authorities to cancel a men's tournament in Dubai next week unless the UAE allows another Israeli player, Andy Ram, to participate.
Later Wednesday, U.S. congressman Anthony Weiner of New York said that Ram will get a visa to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships, adding that as a result he will not ask the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) to cancel the event.
But Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Washington, has assured Weiner that the male doubles player will be allowed to play in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, which starts Monday.
The Jewish umbrella group, which is holding meetings in Jerusalem this week, called the decision to bar Peer from participating offensive, discriminatory and unacceptable.
In an interview, the conference's executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein, said his group had been in touch with WTA tour chief Larry Scott and urged him to cancel the women's tournament next year if Dubai did not change its policy.
"There has to be some price," he said. "History teaches us if you let a thing like this go, it grows, and if people perceive it as a license to discriminate, there will be no limit."
He said Scott was very responsive but offered no immediate promises. Scott has said he will consider dropping Dubai from the tour's calendar. The WTA is expected to discuss the matter at an upcoming board meeting.
Hoenlein said his group planned to contact Dubai authorities later Wednesday to express its dissatisfaction and urge it to allow Ram into the country. "We will have a letter there today," he said.
Ram was competing in a tournament in France on Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. But his agent, Amit Naor, told The Associated Press that his client is hoping to play and has already booked a ticket to Dubai for Sunday.
The controversy has trapped the UAE between its desire to host big-time global sporting events and its stance on Mideast politics. The country sees itself as a guardian of the Palestinians.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor condemned the UAE, but said there is little the government can do, because the countries don't have diplomatic relations.
In new fallout, Swedish authorities said that Sweden and Israel will play their first-round Davis Cup tennis match in an empty arena next month because of security concerns.
Several anti-Israel demonstrations are planned during the best-of-five series, which will be played March 6-8 at the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall. The city's recreational committee said it could not guarantee security for the fans.
Michael Klein, chairman of the Israel Tennis Federation, said it was a shame that political demonstrators could force Sweden to keep fans out.