Letter Calls on California Rugby Team to Pull Out of South Africa Tournament Over BDS Ban of Tel Aviv Squad
The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) was among a dozen organizations to sign a joint letter on Friday calling on the San Clemente Rhinos — a California-based professional rugby club — to pull out of the Mzansi Challenge in South Africa after tournament organizers caved to pressure from BDS activists and disinvited an Israeli team, the Tel Aviv Heat.
“Initial reports indicate the possibility that the Rhinos were selected to compete in that Challenge to replace the Tel Aviv Heat and are therefore benefiting from the discriminatory exclusion of the Heat,” the letter — organized by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law — said. “We are writing to ask that you help tackle this alarming problem by speaking out against this discrimination and declining to participate in a discriminatory competition.”
The decision by the South Africa Rugby Union (SARU) to remove the Tel Aviv Heat from the competition was announced last month, with SARU President Mark Alexander explaining, “We listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups” — an apparent reference to the South African BDS Coalition.
“We 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 [International Olympic Committee],” he said.
Friday’s letter referred to the history of antisemitism targeting international sports, including the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.
“Attempts to discriminate against Jewish or Israeli athletes have been unsuccessful in large part because the international community quickly and forcefully expressed their outrage,” it noted. “The Rhinos and USA Rugby must do the same. The United States is a global leader in sports and the host of the 2031 Rugby World Cup. The participation of the Rhinos in the Mzansi Challenge under these circumstances would undermine the ability of USA Rugby to take its proper role in international sports.”
The letter further added, “Your obligation to lead on this issue is particularly pressing because there is an unacceptable appearance that the San Clemente Rhinos are benefiting from discrimination against the Heat. The ‘Mexican Rhinos’ were originally reported to be replacing the Heat. Just this week, SARU belatedly announced your team would be participating, describing it as a ‘partnership; between the Mexican Rugby Union and Rhino Rugby.”
“While another team has also quit the competition, the appearance is that an American team is benefiting from discrimination by filling a void created in large measure by the exclusion of the Israeli team,” it said. “This creates the impression that both your team and USA Rugby support the discriminatory treatment of the Heat — in violation of USA Rugby’s values, the values of international sports, and fundamental American values.”
Other signatories of the letter — which can be read in full here — included the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Christians United for Israel Action Fund, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Israeli-American Coalition for Action, Jewish Federations of North America, Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, and Zionist Organization of America.