South Africa rugby withdraws invitation for Israeli team after boycott calls
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) announced on Friday that it had withdrawn an invitation to Israeli club Tel Aviv Heat to compete in a second-tier competition from March 24.
On Thursday, a press release from the national body said the Tel Aviv Heat plus teams from Spain, Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe and six South African sides would take part.
However, SARU informed the Tel Aviv Heat 24 hours later that the invitation for them to take part had been withdrawn.
A Mexican side could replace the Israelis.
SARU President Mark Alexander said the decision had been taken after "we listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups".
"We have taken this decision to avoid the likelihood of the competition becoming a source of division, notwithstanding the fact that Israel is a full member of World Rugby and the IOC [International Olympic Committee]."
Although they share diplomatic ties, relations between South Africa and Israel are strained, according to the African state’s international relations department. South Africa established diplomatic relations with Palestine in 1995.
"There is currently limited political and diplomatic interaction between South Africa and Israel," says the department.
"(This is) due to Israel's antagonistic attitude towards the Middle East peace process and disregard for international law regarding the rights of the Palestinians and their territories."
Groups such as the South African BDS Coalition were enraged after SARU’s invitation of the Israeli "apartheid" team, calling on them to withdraw the invite.
"It is incredulous that a post-apartheid South African rugby organisation chooses to invite a team from a settler colonial state that continues to occupy Palestinian land, and uphold a brutal system of apartheid against Palestinians," the South African BDS Coalition said in an earlier statement.
They are affiliated to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
At least 35 Palestinians have been killed since the start of this year alone by Israeli forces.
Israel continues to practise violence and oppression against Palestinians especially living in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
(Agencies and The New Arab)