Men’s And Women’s Teams Barred From International Play
In a shocking move this week, the International Ice Hockey Federation has banned teams from Israel from competing in any IIHF world championship events indefinitely. The federation cited “security concerns” for competing athletes in justifying its decision.
“After careful consideration, the IIHF Council has decided that, due to concerns over the safety and security of all participants in the Championships, Israel will not participate in IIHF Competitions for the time being.”Statement from the IIHF
Obviously, it is impossible to think of Israeli athletes without recalling the tragic events of the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. However, “safety and security,” in this case, sounds a lot more like an excuse than a justification.
The IIHF 2024 World Championship will be held in Czechia. The IIHF also said in its statement that it had consulted with the host country and with participating nations before making its decision.
Israel To Sue IIHF Over Its Decision
Citing the decision as “arbitrary” and potentially illegal, the Knesset Sports Committee in Israel, along with the Israeli Ice Hockey Association (IIHA) and the Israel Olympic Committee, announced plans on Thursday to sue the IIHF over the expulsion of Israel from competition.
“Imagine that there’s a Soccer World Championship and FIFA announces that Israel cannot participate. This is a smaller sector, so it’s not echoing as loudly, but it’s an Olympic sport nevertheless.”Knesset Sports Committee Chair Simon Davidson (Yesh Atid)
“Unfortunately, we are witnessing a precedent-setting and dangerous decision that stinks of antisemitism under the guise of safety for the athletes. In personal conversations I had with the chairman of the International Federation, I witnessed a disappointing lack of transparency and opacity driven by a hidden agenda that has no place in world sports,” added Yael Arad, chairwoman of the Israeli Olympic Committee.
Israel Women’s Hockey Banned Along With Men’s Team
The IIHF also banned the Israel women’s hockey team from its competitions. Basically, the IIHF has said to everyone in Israel that they are not welcome.
According to sources at The Jerusalem Post, the IIHF made its decision based not on security, but external political pressure. The sources cited Russian influence on the decision, though this is unconfirmed.
Knesset Sports Committee Chair Davidson also stated that he had spoken with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about the ban and that Israel has the IOC’s support.
A Strong Hockey Tradition In Israel
Hockey in Israel may not be known around the world, but Israel has a strong tradition in the game. Israel formed the professional Israel League in 1990 and currently has 12 teams in competition. Internationally, Israeli hockey has been a member of the IIHF since 1991. The women’s team is not ranked, but the men’s team is ranked 34th in the world.
IIHF typically divides its competitions into divisions and tiers, so you won’t normally see Israel competing against world powers like Sweden, Canada, or the United States. However, in 2013, the Israel men’s hockey team won the gold medal in the IIHF World Championship, Division II – Group B. They were promoted to Division II – Group A following that championship.
Banning Athletes Based On Nationality
The IIHF decision is not the first time international sports have banned athletes based on their nationality. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian athletes remain banned from many competitions, including the Paralympics, FIFA and UEFA soccer events, and FIA and Formula One. In a very creepy Orwellian move, the IOC has indicated that Russian athletes will be able to compete in the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, but only as individuals and only after a screening process confirms that they have not expressed any support for the war.
Even in professional tennis, an individual sport where players do not represent their country, Wimbledon banned Russian players from its championship in 2022. That ban faced strong backlash from players such as Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Martina Navratilova, and many more.
Despite backlash from many groups for Israel’s attack on Hamas after the horrific terrorist attack on Oct. 7, however, there is no compassion between Israel’s war and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The IIHF’s actions here, though they cite “safety and security” strike a distinctive note of taking a side in the Israel-Hamas war, something that no governing sports body should ever engage in.
IIHF president Luc Tardiff, a controversial figure in his own right, has not yet responded to multiple requests for comment on the ban or on Israel’s lawsuit to let its teams compete. Regardless of his personal opinions, this action seems to directly conflict with his campaign in 2012 to make the IIHF a “non-political body.”
…Not to mention his promise to fight against racism in international hockey.