Thursday, January 13, 2011

Venus Williams, Ambassador for Israel

Nadene Goldfoot

The United Arab Emirates has a population of 5,432,746 Sunni Muslims of which Islam is the state religion. Surpisingly, only 76% of the population are Muslims. It has a federal constitutional monarchy which is no surprise in that we know it's not a democracy.

Dubai is one of the seven emirates or provinces with a population of 1,306,000 and lies south of the Persian gulf on the Arabian Peninsula. They hold the Dubai Championships Tennis Tournament. In 2009 Israel's female Shahar Peer was denied a visa and could not participate. This is no surprise, as Israelis are not usually allowed into any Muslim country. Israelis can't even be in the "back of the bus!" We can't get in the door.

In 2009, Venus Williams, USA's outstanding tennis player and Grand Slam Champion, was not about to allow Israel's Shahar Peer to be denied the opportunity because she was Israeli. Venus wouldn't play and give anyone else the opportunity to challenge her title there unless Shahar could also play. Because of this excluding Peer, the WTA fined Dubai $300,000. Part of the fine went to Peer and her doubles partner, Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany.

This did it. Shahar was allowed to enter the competition in the winter of 2010 but had to be surrounded by guards. She also had to play on the most secure court which was not Center Court all week.

Who would have had the guts to call Dubai on this anti-semitic act and challenge this country? Without Venus, a #1 contender, the event would have been nothing. They conceded.

Venus played Shahar and Venus won in the semifinals. It must have been a great game for both. We should all commend Venus for her brave act of standing up to the deliberate snub that Dubai had been practicing. She commented that as a black woman, her family had gone through similar treatment, coming from the south. She said that this was professional tennis 2010 and excluding an athlete was not acceptable. Peer now has the ranking of #19. She has played Venus many times and always loses to her. This is a valuable experience for her.

"For her stance on this issue, Venus Williams was honored in New York with an award from the Anti-Defamation League. If Williams' support doesn't sound much like a revolutionary position, consider how few athletes in this sport, and others, seem willing to comment on any political matter."

It looks like professional athletes can do much in being ambassadors for peace.

This year's event will be held from February 14 - 20, 2011. Venus will be returning along with Caroline Wozniacki. Shahar Peer, now #13, will also be returning.

Resource: Venus Williams and Israel

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