Ireland refuse to shake hands with Israel before basketball match following anti-Semitism row

Ireland's players

The anti-Semitism row engulfing Ireland’s women’s basketball team deepened on Thursday after they refused to shake hands with the Israel side during the countries’ European Championship qualifier.

The Irish lost Thursday’s grudge match 87-57 but the result was completely overshadowed by their boycott of the traditional pre- and post-match handshakes.

The snub was in protest at an “inflammatory and wholly inaccurate” accusation by Israeli debutante Dor Sa’ar that Ireland’s players were “quite antisemitic” during an interview published two days before the first of two qualifiers between the nations.

Her comments, published on Tuesday on the Israeli Basketball Federation’s website, followed a statement last month by Basketball Ireland in which it said it had “raised strong concerns about these fixtures with Israel, including the option not to play the games” in light of the response to the Oct 7 Hamas terrorist attacks there.

The Telegraph has been told some Irish players opted not to travel for Thursday’s qualifier, which had been postponed from its original November date due to the ongoing war in Gaza before being moved from Israel to Riga, Latvia.

In a statement issued shortly before tip-off, Basketball Ireland said: “Basketball Ireland informed Fiba Europe yesterday that as a direct result of recent comments made by Israeli players and coaching staff – including inflammatory and wholly inaccurate accusations of anti-Semitism, published on official Israeli federation channels – that our players will not be partaking in traditional pre-match arrangements with our upcoming opponents. This includes exchanging of gifts, formal handshakes before or after the game, while our players will line up for the Irish national anthem by our bench, rather than centre court. Basketball Ireland fully supports our players in their decision.”

Ireland and Israel teams line up not looking at each other
Ireland lined up by their bench rather than opposite their opponents, Israel - FIBA

The anti-Semitism row erupted amid major pressure from pro-Palestinian campaigners in Ireland for the national team to boycott their fixtures against Israel.

Sa’ar had said of the Irish side: “It’s known that they are quite anti-Semitic and it’s no secret, and maybe that’s why a strong game is expected.

“We have to show that we’re better than them and win. We talk about it among ourselves, We know they don’t like us and we will leave everything on the field always and in this game especially.”

Her comments prompted Basketball Ireland to lodge a formal complaint with competition organisers FIBA Europe.

The match was played behind closed doors because of security concerns.

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