The Ireland women’s basketball team refused a traditional pre-match handshake with Israel after a player claimed the team were antisemitic.
Ahead of the FIBA Women’s Euro Basket 2025 Qualifier game on Thursday, the Israeli Basketball Association published an interview with player Dor Saar containing the allegation.
“It’s known that they are quite antisemitic, and it’s no secret; maybe that’s why a strong game is expected,” Dor Saar said of the Irish team.
Tensions further escalated ahead of the game against Israel in Latvia on Thursday.
In a ceremony before the match in Riga, the Latvian capital, Irish players opted to sing the national anthem on the sidelines of the court, while Israel’s players stood on the court.
The game was originally due to take place in Israel last November, but was postponed due to conflict in the region and later rescheduled for a neutral venue in Latvia this Thursday.
In the runup to the game, Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan said that the team boycotting the games with Israel would “lead to huge fines from (basketball governing body) FIBA of up to €180,000 ($193,809), along with an effective five-year ban for the team.”
Ireland lost the match 87-57.
Israel launched a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip following an Oct. 7 cross-border attack by Hamas, killing at least 27,947 Palestinians and injuring 67,459 others, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.
The Israeli offensive has left 85% of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.
In 1980, Ireland made history by becoming the first European Union member to officially call for the establishment of a Palestinian state. While the Irish are not known for antisemitism, the government and its people generally have a deep empathy for the Palestinian cause, rooted in their own historical tribulations.