The Maldives Banning Israelis Is a Disgrace

President Mohamed Muizzu cannot claim to be on the right side of history while adhering to a textbook definition of bigotry.


The Maldives, the paradisiacal archipelago synonymous with lush tropical getaways, will ban Israelis from traveling there in protest over military action the Israeli government has taken in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.

President Mohamed Muizzu's Cabinet will move to bar Israeli passport holders from entering the country, the government announced Sunday, with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs now urging Israeli citizens currently in the Maldives to leave as soon as possible.

The decision adds to the escalating tension between the two countries. Last month, Muizzu applauded the announcement that the International Criminal Court (ICC) would consider a request from prosecutor Karim Asad Ahmad Khan KC to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant on war crimes charges, calling it "a significant step in the quest for justice for the Palestinian people."

"The Maldives is confident that the Prosecutor's Office has gathered enough evidence to prove Israel has conducted war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza," he continued. "We will explore every avenue to support the people of Palestine in the international arena."

Arrest warrants aside, the pro-Palestine movement makes some valid points that transcend political tribalism. Pushback against the Israeli military striking a refugee camp in Rafah on the Gaza Strip, for instance, can and does defy partisanship. Muizzu certainly appears to have some blind spots on the subject—he omitted from his recent comment that the ICC prosecutor made the same request for arrest warrants against Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh, Yahya Sinwar, and Mohammed Deif—but he is nonetheless entitled to his views. And the recent manifestation of those views, in the form of his Israeli ban, cedes a great deal of the moral high ground he claims to hold onto.

That's because, for starters, blaming and punishing an entire nationality for the actions of their government is a near-textbook definition of bigotry. And it is difficult to claim you are on the right side of history while being openly and unapologetically bigoted.

This is, of course, not the first time we've seen someone take this low road. Some have repeatedly applied the same general concept to Palestinians, the idea being that they are all responsible for the actions of Hamas, despite that the militants gained power with about 44 percent of the vote in January 2006, when a huge portion of people living in Gaza now were either not old enough to vote or not yet born.

To bring it closer to home, many Americans would find it patently absurd if they were told they bore personal responsibility for President Joe Biden's or former President Donald Trump's respective administrations. A poll last year found about 91 percent of Democrats view Trump poorly (shocking), while a grand total of 7 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are reportedly satisfied with Biden's job performance (again, shocking). This general idea arguably holds even more relevance among those who call themselves politically homeless, many of whom feel that neither man represents them well.

But the trend is also not constrained to the Israel-Hamas war. Though scanning history provides several examples, we don't have to look very far back: When the Russia-Ukraine war broke out in 2022, there was a rush among some to signal support for Ukraine by severing ties with Russians. Some of that came from governments in the form of visa suspensions and from academic institutions nixing educational partnerships.

But it also came from everyday people, like when the prodigious young pianist Alexander Malofeev, who was then all of 20 years old, lost a string of concert engagements after his hosts decided that collaborating with a Russian musician was a bridge too far. "Considering the serious impact on the civilian population of Ukraine caused by the Russian invasion, the [Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal] must announce the withdrawal of pianist Alexander Malofeev," the organization wrote at the time. Is that supposed to pass for bravery? What was a 20-year-old musician supposed to do to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin's evil ambitions?

Ironically, on the subject of courage, Malofeev denounced the war. When considering he is from a country ruled by a brutal authoritarian—one who does not hesitate to try to kill his critics!—it would seem perverse to argue that those who ostracized him because of where he was born were the ones taking a valiant stand. There is a critical difference between virtue and virtue signaling. As is clear from Muizzu's recent announcement, this is a lesson some have not yet learned.