Israeli Olympic Committee Slams IIHF's Decision To Ban Its Teams From World Tournaments

John Simmons | January 11, 2024
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The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has banned the Israeli hockey teams from playing in a pair of upcoming tournaments over “safety concerns.” 

Israel’s men’s team was scheduled to play in the Division II-A championships in Belgrade, Serbia, from April 21-27. The team was scheduled to play teams from Serbia, Croatia, Australia, Iceland, and the United Arab Emirates. Additionally, the women’s team was also scheduled to play in the Division III-B world championship event in Estonia in March

However, the IIHF decided to restrict both of Israel’s national teams, saying they could not guarantee the safety of the players and coaches.

“In accordance with IIHF’s duty of care to protect all participants at IIHF Competitions and its obligation to create corresponding health and safety policies, the IIHF Council, within its power found in IIHF Statute has decided to restrict the Israeli National Team from participating in IIHF Championships until the safety and well-being of all participants (including Israeli participants) can be assured,” the IIHF said in a statement.

In response, the Israeli Ice Hockey Association (IIHA), supported by the Israeli Olympic Committee (IOC), is filing a claim with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the IIHF’s decision. The IOC lambasted the IIHF for its decision.

"Unfortunately, we are witnessing a precedent-setting and dangerous decision that stinks of antisemitism under the guise of safety for the athletes," said Yael Arad, chairwoman of the Israeli Olympic Committee. "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.

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“The Times Of Israel” noted that the IIHF’s reasoning for excluding Israel was similar to the reasoning used to prevent Russia and Belarus from competing in similar tournaments after Russia invaded Ukraine.

It’s worth noting that the IIHF did not mention the Israel-Hamas conflict as a reason for excluding Israel. However, if it's using similar reasoning to ban Israel that it used for Russia, that seems at least a little suspicious.

Furthermore, none of the teams that the men’s side would play against have any direct involvement in the conflict. While the United Arab Emirates could be hostile towards Israel (since it's a Muslim nation), that’s just one team. And this event barely gets any media exposure and little fan attendance. What kind of negative reaction does the IIHF foresee from an event that not many people give much attention too?

The IIHF’s logic seems to follow the logic used to justify the COVID lockdowns: “There’s a potential risk at play here, so we’re not going to let you do anything you should be allowed to do. Meanwhile, we’re going to push some pretty evil schemes while we have you scared for your lives.” 

As Arad said, there seems to be a hidden agenda at play here that’s more than just the safety of the Israeli players.

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