Sue Bolton, Melbourne
23 January 2010
After being confronted by protests in New Zealand, Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer was met by a protest organised by Australians For Palestine at the Australian Open in Melbourne on January 19.
Tennis Australia enforced an exclusion zone, in effect prohibiting protests anywhere in the vicinity of the tennis centre complex. It was able to do so under a provision of the Melbourne Major Events Act, which makes public property the domain of the organisers of any major event. Nevertheless, the small protest was well covered by the media in Melbourne and Israel.
Australians for Palestine supports the campaign to boycott Israel, including a sports boycott. It says sport has become a political issue because the right to play sport cannot be exercised by the Palestinians in the territories occupied by Israel, whose basic movements are restricted. The opportunities for Palestinian athletes to practice and compete are denied by Israel.
Peer was granted “outstanding athlete” status when she agreed to act as an Israeli Defense Force poster girl. This reduced her two-year term of compulsory military service in the interests of her tennis career. In the poster, Peer stands next to an army tank smiling broadly and saluting. Clearly, Israel has no compunction about linking sport and politics
Peer described her experience of serving in the army as being better than playing Maria Sharapova.
Unlike other Israelis who have taken a stand against their government”s apartheid policies, Peer has shown no understanding of the oppressive conditions under which Palestinians live but rather sees herself as a victim of discrimination. Despite acts as an unofficial recruiting officer for Israel”s armed forces, she claims she has nothing to do with politics.
On January 22, a candlelight vigil was held in Melbourne to mark the one year anniversary of Israel”s deadly “Cast Lead” attack on the defenceless civilians of Gaza. Israel killed 1400 Palestinians and injured 5000 in that assault. Israel continues to strangle Gaza. Prohibited items under the siege range from crayons to concrete, so as winter takes hold Palestinians are building shelters out of mud bricks. As well as Palestinians, sympathetic Jews and Tamils attended the vigil.