As reported over the weekend, the United Arab Emirates denied a visa to Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer, so she is unable to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Tour operator IsramWorld responded with this volley today:
New York - February 17, 2009: One of America's largest tour operators, New York-based IsramWorld has cancelled its tour programs to Dubai, it was announced today in the wake of the United Arab Emirates' decision to deny a visa to Israeli tennis player, Shahar Peer, to participate in the Dubai Tennis Championships.
"The UAE's action is an odious act of political bigotry," says A. Ady Gelber, president and CEO of IsramWorld, a leading U.S. tour operator for more than four decades and a prominent member of USTOA (the United States Tour Operators' Association), "and it reveals that despite its massive investment in tourism infrastructure, Dubai appears not ready to be a member of the world tourism family."
IsramWorld offers tours and packages to 56 countries on five continents. In the wake of the Camp David Accords, it was one of the first U.S. tour operators to offer a diverse program of tours to Egypt, and in 1994 it began offering tours to Jordan. "I am deeply disappointed in the UAE's decision, one that seems to spell a return to the grim dark days of division and discrimination," observed Gelber.
The Dubai Tennis Championships are sponsored by Barclays, Britain's fourth-biggest bank that in 2008 acquired the assets of failed U.S. investment bank, Lehman Brothers.
According to a report in Sunday's New York Times, when U.S. tennis champion, Venus Williams, learned of Peer's visa denial she said, "All the players support Shahar, we are all athletes, and we stand for tennis." Peer and her family urged the Women's Tennis Association not to cancel the tournament because of the incident, but The New York Times took an unusually strong position in its article on the controversy, saying: "There is always going to be international conflict, and athletes in the middle. But they can't be abandoned there when there is a choice. Tennis should finish its business in the gulf this month, and say bye-bye, Dubai."
"We're saying 'bye-bye, Dubai,' right now," Gelber added.