Rugby stadium
Rugby stadiumiStock

A number of major American Jewish organizations are urging a California-based professional rugby team to pull out of an international competition that disinvited an Israeli team, JTA reported on Friday.

Last month, South Africa Rugby withdrew an invitation to Israeli club Tel Aviv Heat to compete in a second-tier competition.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said at the time that the decision had been taken after "we listened to the opinions of important stakeholder groups".

In a letter sent to the San Clemente Rhinos, the Jewish groups called on the team to “tackle this alarming problem by speaking out against this discrimination and declining to participate in a discriminatory competition.”

The letter’s signatories include the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America. It was organized by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights, according to JTA.

South Africa Rugby’s decision to withdraw the invitation for the Israeli team came after pressure from the South African BDS Coalition, an affiliate of the Palestinian BDS National Committee that promotes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Since the US team would replace Israel in the tournament, the Jewish groups said the dynamic could create the “unacceptable appearance that the San Clemente Rhinos are benefiting from discrimination against the Heat.”

The letter also pointed to other historical instances of antisemitism and Israel discrimination in sports — most notably the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre during which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered.

“Attempts to discriminate against Jewish or Israeli athletes have been unsuccessful in large part because the international community quickly and forcefully expressed their outrage,” the letter reads. “The Rhinos and USA Rugby must do the same.”

Anti-Israel sentiments remain prevalent in South Africa, where the government has frequently accused Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs.

Last year, South Africa's former chief justice was ordered to apologize for comments he made two years earlier pledging support for Israel.

In 2019, the country announced plans to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv.

A year earlier, South Africa withdrew its ambassador to Israel in protest against the deadly violence along the Israel-Gaza border.

The decision came after the Hamas terrorist organization led violent and mass terrorist acts in protest against the inauguration of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem. Hamas later openly admitted that most of those who were killed in those violent riots were members of the group.

Several years ago, the ANC party proposed new rules regarding dual citizenship meant to stop South African citizens from joining the IDF.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)