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Irish athletes boycott women's basketball tournament against Israel next month due to war in Gaza

Israeli team extends 'gratitude to FIBA Europe' for its support

Basketball game between Israel and Belgian national women's team in Tel Aviv, Israel on Thursday 15 June 2023, (Photo by VIRGINIE LEFOUR/Belga/Sipa USA)

When Ireland competes against Israel next month as part of the qualifications for next year’s FIBA Women’s Eurobasketball tournament, five of the Irish team players will not be participating.

Instead, they are boycotting the game, citing Israel's ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. 

The athletes had been pushing for Basketball Ireland to boycott the game with Israel entirely, but the international sports body said that doing so would incur too much expense and that the tournament would continue as scheduled.

“Basketball Ireland is obliged to fulfill this fixture, as failing to do so will result in a significant fine from FIBA Europe of €80,000. Should we fail to play the additional return fixture in November, Basketball Ireland would be subject to an additional fine of €100,000 ... and removal from the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 tournament,” a spokesman for the basketball association said in a statement.

“We have taken into account the opinions expressed by the players, team members, and the entire basketball community in Ireland, and we understand their concerns,” the association added.

“We have thoroughly considered whether to participate in the games against Israel and have also engaged in discussions with government ministries. However, given the current circumstances, FIBA Europe has declined to support a boycott of Israel, therefore we are obliged to participate in the game on February 8.”

However, Basketball Ireland has made it clear that players who refuse to compete against Israel will not be fined or suspended as a result of their boycott.

While the Israeli women’s basketball team is preparing for the tournament against Ireland, which will take place in less than two weeks, it was disappointed with Ireland’s conduct.

“We are disappointed that the Irish did not show solidarity and did not adhere to the spirit of sportsmanship, unlike many other associations and teams across Europe," the Israeli basketball association said last month in a statement.

“We extend our gratitude to FIBA Europe for their support, as well as to the Latvian association for hosting the women's team. They have been demonstrating their exemplary hospitality for over a year and a half, hosting the Ukrainian national teams, which reflects their exceptional character.”

Israel is in Group 5 of the European Championship qualifiers, alongside France, Latvia and Ireland.

In November 2024, Israel will play two games against France and Ireland and next year, in February 2025, they are expected to host Latvia and France. The team that finishes first in this group, along with the four best runners-up from the eight groups, will qualify for the European Championship, which will take place in the summer of 2025.

On several occasions, the Republic of Ireland has stood out in Europe as an anti-Israel nation.

Last November, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar posted a tweet in response to 9-year-old Emily Hand's release from Hamas captivity, writing that the young dual Israeli-Irish citizen was “lost and now been found.” However, he failed to mention she was abducted by Hamas terrorists and held in captivity for 50 days.

Hand was a resident of Kibbutz Be'eri, along with her friend Hila Rotem-Shoshani, while her stepmother, Narkis, was murdered.

Varadkar’s tweet caused outrage because of his complete disregard for the brutal attack on Israeli southern border communities on Oct. 7, perpetrated by Hamas terrorists and their allies.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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