Protesters target Israeli player again

By Dana Johannsen

Tournament director Brenda Perry waits as police check the stands after an unattended bag was found. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Tournament director Brenda Perry waits as police check the stands after an unattended bag was found. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer is disappointed to be the target of protests this week, as demonstrators renew calls for her withdrawal from the ASB Classic tournament.

The group, Global Peace and Justice, led by veteran protester John Minto, yesterday gathered outside the ASB Tennis Centre to protest against Peer's presence at the tournament.

Mr Minto's group is opposed to Israel's treatment of Palestinians and supports a boycott of the country, including sporting contacts.

The group sent Peer, 22, a letter asking her to withdraw "as a demonstration of your commitment to peace" and plan to protest until she does, or is knocked out of the tournament.

Peer yesterday advanced to the second round by beating Slovenia's Polona Hercog 7-5 6-3.

She was also targeted by protesters during last year's visit to Auckland.

Peer, who is making her fourth appearance at the tournament, said yesterday she believed sport should transcend the boundaries of politics.

"I don't think there is a place for politics in sport. It's a shame that someone thinks it is my fault that there are problems in the world," said Peer.

Protester Janfrie Wakim, of the Palestine Human Rights Campaign Auckland, said sport was an important part of the boycott campaign.

"That is an argument that is used in the past, but it is one of the ways to get some leverage, and we saw that in South Africa and we saw it so effectively in rugby. Of course the argument is politics and sport don't mix, well, politics affects the lives of every Palestinian - they have no chance of being involved in sport and this is an opportunity for us to affect those policies.

"[Peer] has declared her service to the Israeli Army, and she is apparently a very good shot. She hasn't joined a lot of other young Israelis and become a refusenik, which she could have easily done if she had the courage to do so."

Peer said the unwelcome attention would not deter her from returning to the tournament next year.

"As you can see I came back, it is a nice tournament and [tournament director] Brenda Perry makes us feel very welcome," said Peer.

Yesterday's protest action coincided with a security scare that delayed the start of the opening matches after an unattended bag was discovered in the stands.

Around 300 to 500 people were evacuated from the centre for half an hour and surrounding streets shut .

It turned out the owner had left her bag in the main stands while she went and watched players warming up on the outside courts.

- NZ Herald

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