Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Image Credit: AFP

An international chess tournament that was scheduled to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has had its venue moved to Russia. The organisers of the World Blitz and Rapid Championship confirmed the change in venue this past week. Their reason? Israeli players threatened legal action over being barred from the event.

The World Chess Federation (Fide) also added it would no longer be hosting tournaments in countries that denied entry or restricted participants based on national origins.

In explaining their decision, Fide boss Emil Sutovsky, an Israeli, said: “The championships were moved from Saudi Arabia to Russia due to the policy adopted by the Saudi organisers. The new leadership of FIDE made it clear that Fide will no longer stage its official events in the countries that deny entry visa and fair treatment to all the eligible players. We will stick to this policy and make sure that chess players from any country will not be banned from participation in the official events, based on their nationality, ethnicity, race or gender.”

Although Saudi Arabia was contracted to hold three such annual tournaments, the Israelis howled and screamed when seven Israeli chess players were denied visas to attend the tournament a year ago. The Saudis, much like the countries of the region, do not have any diplomatic relations with Israel and for good reason.

The Israelis then began to muster enough forces to pitch their point across to ensure inclusion in all future such events. They brought in the Lawfare Project, an organisation described as ‘an American, non-profit, think tank and litigation fund that protects the human and civil and rights of Jewish and pro-Israel communities worldwide’.

The Project also takes legal actions to protect free speech and civil rights by challenging anti-Semitism and discrimination against Jews.

Well, well, well. A country that violates every human and civil right in the book has now reached for a Zionist think tank to promote their cause. Apparently, with the head of the Chess Federation being an Israeli, they succeeded in axing out Saudi Arabia from hosting further competitions.

Policy of apartheid

Israel is a country that understands human and civil rights only when it comes to the Jews. All other religions are subject to discrimination, humiliation and even worse. It will continue to be isolated by the Arab world as long as it practises its policy of apartheid against the Palestinians, whose lands have been illegally occupied by the Israelis.

Israel has no excuse for not having peaceful relations with its neighbours. In spite of peaceful overtures, this is a country that has flatly rejected the Arab Peace Plan proposed by the late King Abdullah Bin Abdullah Aziz back in 2002, which would have allowed full diplomatic recognition by all Arab countries. Instead, Israel chose to remain on its course of terrorising and eliminating its Palestinian subjects.

From state-sponsored killings of unarmed and helpless Palestinians to illegal annexation of their lands, such activities have not gone down well with their Arab neighbours and certainly not with Saudis. It is also a well-known fact that quite a few Israeli athletes had previously been members of the so-called Israel Defence Forces — a band of Israeli thugs that shoots to kill, their recent targets being primarily women and children.

The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, has categorically stated that the Arab world is not going to accept Israel as a regional partner as long as its current policies continue. King Salman has on many occasions reiterated the Kingdom’s steadfast position on the Palestinian cause and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. As the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, Saudi Arabia bears the weight of the Muslim world and this form of commitment is necessary to ward off grand Zionist designs for the region.

Lost lives

While the Israelis try to fault the Saudis for human rights abuses, they continue to conceal their own massive and immeasurable abuses of human rights and lost lives of lawful residents of the land — the Palestinians — abuses that have now stretched for more than seven decades.

And so, if the Saudis do not feel like welcoming Israelis on their lands, they are perfectly right in doing so. Saudis will not accept any Israeli on their soil as long as the current Israeli apartheid regime continues its practices of violating every right, civil, human or otherwise of the Palestinians.

Not hosting a chess tournament with Israeli participants is a statement of our resolution for a free Palestine.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena.