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Tipsheet

Why the Irish National Women's Basketball Team Refused to Shake Hands with the Israeli Squad

We have competing narratives about why the Irish national women’s basketball team refused to shake hands with the Israeli squad. One story is that the Irish ladies stood in solidarity with the Palestinians. The other is that Israel lobbed unsubstantiated accusations that the Irish team was antisemitic. The showdown occurred in Riga, Latvia, on Thursday, which was a qualifying game for the European championship.  Whatever the case, the Irish got waxed, losing 87-57 (via WaPo): 

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Reacting to accusations of antisemitism, the Irish national women’s basketball team refused to shake hands with Israel’s squad at a qualifying game Thursday for next year’s European championship. 

The Irish women also declined to partake in other traditional pleasantries, including an exchange of gifts. They lined up before the game near their bench, rather than near center court, where their opponents lined up. 

[…] 

Basketball Ireland said that the players’ decision, which it “fully” supported, came as a “direct result of recent comments made by Israeli players and coaching staff — including inflammatory and wholly inaccurate accusations of antisemitism, published on official Israeli federation channels.” 

[…] 

Following the game, an 87-57 win for Israel in group play to qualify for FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025, both coaches addressed the Irish players’ actions. 

Saying he “would prefer to be talking about basketball and not this,” Ireland Coach James Weldon said his team “didn’t engage in the pre-match activities as a direct result of those unwarranted and unacceptable comments from the Israeli camp about our players. It was hugely disappointing.” 

“I think for such a young group of players they showed incredible maturity in how they handled a very pressured week,” Weldon added of his team. “It’s been difficult for all of us.” 

“I have been in sports for many years and I have never seen anything like this in my life,” said Israel Coach Sharon Drucker (via Sports Rabbi). “There isn’t a game where you don’t acknowledge the other team, shake hands, congratulate each other. They took an extreme step, and they received their punishment for that today. Sports need to be a bridge. They took a side without even thinking about what they were doing.” 

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Ireland’s parliament did consider expelling the Israeli ambassador at the outset of the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. Sinn Fein made that push until a ceasefire was brokered. The motion was defeated.  

If Ireland’s women’s team did this over Palestinian solidarity, they deserved to get curb-stomped in this game. If not, well, who cares—they still lost. That’s the game. 

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