There has been a lot of hysteria over the Israeli teams bound (or not) for Bali and even more over the ongoing efforts of Migry Zur-Campanile, who holds an Israeli passport but has been added to the USA2 squad for the Venice Cup, to
obtain a visa to travel to Indonesia.
Recapping briefly, here is what has happened to date:
(i.) The Israeli women’s team qualified through European trials for the Venice Cup and was given the runaround by Indonesia regarding visas and security; the Israeli Bridge Federation subsequently withdrew the team.
(ii.) The Argentine senior team withdrew from the d’Orsi Bowl, opening the door to a further European team to play. The Israeli seniors (next in line in the European Championships) declined (for, presumably, the same reasons their
women’s team withdrew) and the Netherlands (second in line) accepted.
(iii.) The Westheimer team, playing four-handed, won their Trials to become USA2 in the Venice Cup and augmented with two Americans and an Israeli (living in the US). (Westheimer developed health problems after the Trials and is unable to go to Bali, so the team needed three extra players instead of two.) Campanile is still trying to get her visa. (Update: By mid-August, she had obtained her visa.)
Much undeserved scorn has been heaped upon Indonesia and the World Bridge Federation for these actions. Indonesia does not recognise Israel as a sovereign state, so the visa situation is not unexpected. GABSI, the Indonesian Bridge
Federation, is at the mercy of their government in this circumstance. The situation would undoubtedly have been different had General Wiranto (former Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian army, Aide-de-Camp of President Suharto
and previously a vice-president, then chairman of GABSI) and Amran Zamzami (president of GABSI) still been in charge, but GABSI’s influence has waned with Wiranto’s retirement from the military and GABSI and with Zamzami’s death.
These days, Wiranto is too busy with his candidacy for president of Indonesia to be concerned about such lesser matters.
The WBF has come under fire for agreeing to hold their World Championships in a nation that does not guarantee entry to all competitors, but the WBF’s hands are tied as well since countries are not exactly lining up to host their events (but
that’s another story). The Israelis have been excellent sports about the whole affair – it has been left to others to display hysteria, some calling for a change of venue, others for a boycott. The WBF can take heart from the fact that they are
not alone in sustaining criticism from their choice of venue – the IOC has come under fire for choosing Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics because of the Russian government’s stand on gay rights and FIFA has been excoriated for
their choice of Qatar, partly based on the organisers’ promise of air-conditioned stadia for the fans and players. That promise has been dismissed by the stadium architects as “notoriously unsustainable”.
The hysterians, especially the Americans among them, should note that in 2010, for the Philadelphia World Bridge Series, the US government denied visas to 32 bridge players who desired to attend. This is according to Jason Feldman on BridgeWinners.com, who is, incidentally, an immigration attorney. Some, but by no means all, of these players were later admitted to the US with the help of lawyers such as Feldman, the USBF, the ACBL and the WBF. Perhaps the Indonesian, Israeli and WBF bridge authorities needed to make a call to General Wiranto.