The South African rugby federation has withdrawn an invitation to the Israeli rugby team, Tel Aviv Heat, after initially inviting the team to compete in the country.

The Tel Aviv Heat is the first and only professional Israeli rugby union team. It competes in the Eastern Conference of the Rugby Europe Super Cup.

Last Thursday, South Africa Rugby (SAR) issued a press release for the tournament which said the Mzansi Challenge would bring together teams from Israel, Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Spain and South Africa to compete together.

However, the next day South Africa Rugby issued a fresh press release saying the Israeli team would not be welcome to compete following backlash from unidentified “stakeholders.”

Mark Alexander, the president of SAR, did not explain further apart from saying, “we listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups.”

This is another shameful example of the antisemitic hatred of Israel that is sadly all too common within South Africa. The country is one of the biggest supporters of the Palestinian people and the government falsely accuses Israel of practising “apartheid.” The government also supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. In 2019, South Africa lowered its embassy’s status in Israel and removed its ambassador from the country.

Israel’s President Herzog last week labelled those who accuse Israel of apartheid as spreading a “blood libel.”

“The comparison between the State of Israel and the apartheid regime is not a legitimate criticism—it is a blood libel,” Herzog said.

“It is a dangerous and intensifying terrorism since the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the justification of its existence is directly related to its ability to protect itself and hence they are trying to undermine this ability,” he added.

Herzog also described the BDS movement as a “brutal campaign” spearheaded by organizations “spreading lies and false facts and seeking to build a long-term policy that will undermine the existence of the state.”

He continued: “Let’s make no mistake, this is not a peace-seeking campaign, it is a campaign promoting hatred and incitement.”

We often hear that sports institutions want to “kick racism out” of sports, and yet here is blatant antisemitism against Israel. Will World Rugby tolerate such blatant discrimination?

This year, we want to do more to bless Israel and the Jewish people.

We know that as we bless Israel this year, God will bless us, just as He promised in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Now is the time to bless Israel and the Jewish people.

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