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Ireland basketball team refuses to shake hands with Israelis after anti-Semitism allegation

February 9, 2024 at 8:08 pm

Bridget Herlihy of Ireland in action against Dor Saar of Israel during the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket Championship Qualifier match between Israel and Ireland at the Rimi Olympic Centre in Riga, Latvia on 8 February 2024 [Oksana Dzadan/Sportsfile via Getty Images]

The Ireland women’s basketball team refused a traditional pre-match handshake with Israel after a player claimed the team were anti-Semitic, Anadolu Agency reports.

Ahead of the FIBA Women’s Euro Basket 2025 Qualifier game on Thursday, the Israeli Basketball Association published an interview with player, Dor Saar, containing the allegation.”It’s known that they are quite anti-Semitic, and it’s no secret; maybe that’s why a strong game is expected,” Dor Saar said of the Irish team.

Tensions further escalated ahead of the game against Israel in Latvia on Thursday.

In a ceremony before the match in Riga, the Latvian capital, Irish players opted to sing the national anthem on the sidelines of the court, while Israel’s players stood on the court.

The game was originally due to take place in Israel last November, but was postponed due to conflict in the region and later rescheduled for a neutral venue in Latvia this Thursday.

In the run-up to the game, Basketball Ireland CEO, John Feehan, said that the team boycotting the games with Israel would “lead to huge fines from (basketball governing body) FIBA of up to €180,000 ($193,809), along with an effective five-year ban for the team.”Ireland lost the match 87-57.

Israel launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip following a 7 October cross-border attack by Hamas, killing at least 27,947 Palestinians and injuring 67,459 others, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The Israeli offensive has left 85 per cent of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

In 1980, Ireland made history by becoming the first European Union member to officially call for the establishment of a Palestinian State. While the Irish are not known for anti-Semitism, the government and its people generally have a deep empathy for the Palestinian cause, rooted in their own historical tribulations.

READ: Ireland leader calls for ceasefire in Gaza, urges Israel to respect international law