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It follows the company’s failure to pull its sponsorship from the Dubai Tennis Championships last month after Sharar Peer was refused a visa, preventing her participation.
Among those backing the campaign are the Central Synagogue’s Rabbi Barry Marcus who said if the community didn’t take a stand, “this will happen again and again.”
The protest was launched by Dr Lenny Kristal of Los Angeles, Jack DeLowe from Israel and Samuel Abady of New York, who wrote an open letter to Barclays chief executive John Varley on Tuesday expressing their anger over the bank’s participation in the event, even though another sponsor, the Wall Street Journal Europe, pulled out. America’s Tennis Channel, meanwhile, refused to televise the tournament. The letter also issued a warning that a “worldwide internet campaign” would be launched calling for divestment from Barclays if the bank did not announce within a fortnight that it would “not lend its name to any future event or tournament which results in the discrimination of participants on the basis of race, creed, color or nationality”.
The letter stated: “Barclays’ continued sponsorship of the Dubai Tennis tournament constituted a ‘de facto’ endorsement of the Dubai government’s decision to ban Israeli tennis star, Shahar Peer, from entering the country and playing in the tournament, a decision based solely on the grounds of her nationality.”
Kristal told the Jewish News he felt compelled to act because, in his opinion, the bank had “refused to confirm whether or not they warned the UAE and Dubai Duty Free that they would withhold future sponsorship should Israeli sportspeople be excluded again. To us, Barclays had not issued such a warning, and hence they were not in dialogue in any meaningful sense with any stakeholder.”
Rabbi Marcus told the Jewish News: “I think it was quite right to raise the issue of this obvious discrimination of Shahar Peer. If we don’t stand up and allow our voices to be heard this will happen again and again. I fully support this campaign in confronting those involved.”
Barclays responded through a statement which expressed the company’s “commitment to equality and diversity across all our operations”.
It read: “As sponsor, Barclays is not involved in, nor can we have influence over, how the host country seeks to apply its laws. Barclays believes all competitors should be free to participate in events for which they have qualified, and the UAE subsequently outlined its commitment to the same in a statement issued on 19 February 2009. An entry permit for an Israeli male tennis player, Andy Ram, was granted that same day.”
Zionist Federation President Eric Moonman, meanwhile, cautioned against hasty retaliation, suggesting concerned individuals write to their Barclays’ branch before embarking on a more drastic course of action. He said: “There’s no doubt that what happened was a disappointing thing to have occurred, but this particular attempt may be unhelpful and self defeating. If we engage in the same kind of actions as our opponents we fall into the same trap, no matter how injured we feel.”Bank Is Called to Account by Erica Morris