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StandWithUs Condemns SARU Decision to Withdraw Invitation to Tel Aviv Heat Rugby Team

(Johannesburg, South Africa, February 9, 2023) -- South African Rugby Union’s (SARU) decision on February 3, to withdraw their invitation to the Tel Aviv Heat to compete in the Mzansi Challenge Rugby Tournament is unconscionable, hypocritical, and non-transparent. StandWithUs calls on SARU to reinstate the Israeli team immediately.

Credit: Matt Impey, Saracens

SARU president Mark Alexander issued a self-contradictory and perplexing statement saying, “we have listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups and 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.” It should have been clearly predictable that blocking a team in good standing would become an unnecessary source of division. StandWithUs echoes the sentiments of the Tel Aviv Heat that this decision “will only sow further division in South Africa and beyond by bolstering voices dedicated to vilify, demonize, and censor those who do not share their views.”

People of good conscience must not be silent or silenced by this dishonest, divisive decision.

World Rugby has 132 members from six regional associations that include both South Africa and Israel as full members in good standing. It is disgraceful that SARU has apparently succumbed to pressure from politically motivated groups. SARU’s position is indefensible and hypocritical, as Israel has met the Section 2 Criteria for World Rugby Membership which include the requirement that a national rugby union “provide a declaration of opposition to any discrimination on the grounds of race, national or social origin, sex, politics or creed.”

SARU is in clear violation of the very principles of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which last year issued a statement declaring, “The Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games, World Championships and World Cups and many other sports events unite athletes of countries which are in confrontation and sometimes even war... at the same time, the Olympic Movement is united in its sense of fairness not to punish athletes for the decisions of their government if they are not actively participating in them. We are committed to fair competition for everybody without any discrimination.”

The Tel Aviv Heat is rightfully aggrieved in feeling that “SARU’s decision runs contrary to the spirit and core values of rugby, promotes the politics of hatred and retribution over the best interests of sport, and exposes the Tel Aviv Heat and its supporters to being targeted by aggressive, hateful language designed to intimidate, delegitimize, and silence.”

We demand SARU abide by these principles.

The Tel Aviv Heat is Israel’s first professional rugby team which competes annually in the Eastern Conference of the Rugby Europe Super Cup, including against Spanish clubs which have never raised similar issues.

SARU’s indefensible, and contradictory position is even more hypocritical because the Tel Aviv Heat was previously invited to South Africa by the Blue Bulls and participated in three matches in March 2022. So, what has changed in eleven months?

SARU owes the South African public, the global rugby fans, and the international sports parent bodies an explanation as to why they suddenly chose to implement a double standard against Israel and which “important stakeholders” they consulted before they implemented such a hostile and unfair decision. Since Tel Aviv Heat and the Embassy of Israel in South Africa were not consulted, fans and relevant organisations must demand full transparency by SARU on this issue.

About StandWithUs

StandWithUs is a non-partisan educational non-profit organization that inspires and educates people of all ages and backgrounds, challenges misinformation and fights antisemitism with programs on six continents with offices throughout the U.S., in Israel, Europe, the UK, Canada, Brazil and this year in the Netherlands, Australia and South Africa. We are inspired by our love of Israel, our belief that education is the road to peace, and our commitment to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people.

StandWithUs empowers and energizes students and communities with leadership training and educational programs in primary schools, high school and on university campuses. StandWithUs informs through social media, print and digital materials, films, weekly newsletters and missions to Israel.

StandWithUs has received the highest ratings from Charity Navigator (4 stars) and Guidestar (Platinum) and is a U.S. registered 501 (c) (3) non-profit and Section 46 charity (Israel), a UK registered charity and StandWithUs is not politically aligned in any country.

StandWithUs does not and has never advocated specific policies for Israel. Our work and our respect for Israel’s democratically elected government are not dependent upon which parties might be in power. Our goal is to counter antisemitism and to educate the public about Israel, and empower people of all ages to educate their communities, and to make it possible to have reasonable, informed conversations about Israel on campuses and in communities.

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