Israel barred from International Ice Hockey Federation events over security concerns

Source: The Times of Israel

The International Ice Hockey Federation has barred Israel from competing in its world championship events, citing security concerns, in a move Israel has vowed to dispute, decrying an “antisemitic” and “dangerous” decision.

The IIHF said in a statement issued Wednesday that its ruling council “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 Israeli men’s national team was due to play a Division II-A world championship tournament in Serbia in April against teams including Australia and the United Arab Emirates. The Israel women’s national team was scheduled for a Division III-B world championship event in Estonia in March against opponents including Bosnia-Herzegovina and Indonesia.

The Israeli Ice Hockey Association announced in response that it will file a claim with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the international hockey group over its “antisemitic decision to exclude Israel is an unusual and very serious step that does not meet any international sporting standard and stands in complete contradiction to Olympic values.”

The Israeli Ice Hockey Association said that “sources within the International Ice Hockey Federation suggest that the underlying cause of the decision appears to be the alleged capitulation of the Federation’s chairman, Luc Tardif, to political pressures, including influences from Russia.”

The IIHF said it “took this decision after careful consideration and based on a risk assessment, discussions with the participating countries and discussions with the hosts.”

The statement did not say if any other country had objected to playing against Israel and made no mention of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, triggered by the Palestinian terror group’s October 7 massacre in which some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists breached the border, killing some 1,200 people, most of them civilians slaughtered in their homes and at a music festival. Another 240 people were taken hostage in Gaza.

Israel will remain excluded “for the time being,” the IIHF said.

The Israeli Ice Hockey Association said in its statement that the federation’s decision “provides support for terrorism and the massacre of children and older people who were in their beds, in their homes.”

Yael Arad, Chairman of the Olympic Committee of Israel, said in a statement that together with Gili Lustig, the CEO of the Olympic Committee, she has been involved in a number of conversations with the global hockey federation and “unfortunately, we are witnessing a precedent-setting and dangerous decision with a strong undercurrent of antisemitism, disguised under the pretext of athlete safety.”

“In a personal conversation I had with the president of the International Hockey Federation, I witnessed a disappointing lack of transparency and opacity driven by a hidden agenda that has no place in world sports. The International Olympic Committee is aware of the situation and supports that Israel will not be discriminated [against] in any competition whatsoever. We will not allow this to happen,” said Arad, an Olympic judoka champion.

In its reasoning, the IIHF has previously used similar language around safety and security to support its decision last year to suspend Russia and Belarus from competition following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The IIHF world championships are structured into a series of tiers and Israel’s national teams typically play in lower-division events with sparse crowds and little media exposure.

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