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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Giro d'Italia: Activists call for boycott of cycling race that begins in Israel

Palestinian cyclists begin protest against tour's cooperation with Israel

Italian cyclist Niccolo Bonifazio (R) of Bahrain Merida team and teammates warm up along the walls of Jerusalem's old city before the start of the first stage of the Giro d'Italia cycling race, a 9.7km individual time trial in Jerusalem, Israel, 04 May 2018. Abir Sultan / EPA
Italian cyclist Niccolo Bonifazio (R) of Bahrain Merida team and teammates warm up along the walls of Jerusalem's old city before the start of the first stage of the Giro d'Italia cycling race, a 9.7km individual time trial in Jerusalem, Israel, 04 May 2018. Abir Sultan / EPA

Activists launched a boycott campaign against the Giro d’Italia cycling race that held its first stage in Jerusalem on Friday.

The BDS movement, the global campaign that advocates applying economic and political pressure on Israel to achieve equal rights for Palestinians, initiated a #ShameOnGiro hashtag on Twitter that accused the tour of “sports-washing Israel’s violations on Palestinian human rights” by hosting the international event.

“Israel’s multi-million dollar bribe was enough to enlist Giro in its propaganda campaign”, it said on its website.

The movement accused the competition of ignoring Palestinians towns and cities along the route that had been overrun during the creation of Israel in 1948, covering up Israel’s discriminatory laws against Palestinians, and bypassing Israel’s restriction of movement for Palestinians by settlements, the security barrier and checkpoints.

The route of the competition’s first stage will largely pass through West Jerusalem, the part of the holy city that the international community considers to be Israel’s, while the Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of any future state.

The BDS movement had called on the Giro organisers to “relocate the race from Israel”, stating that it would have been similarly unacceptable for the race to have taken place during Apartheid-era South Africa in the 1980s.

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But the first stage went ahead in Jerusalem on Friday amid a heavy Israeli police security operation. Israel has reportedly paid the competition in the region of 10 million euros (dh43.8 million) to host the first stage of the competition.

The next stages will be held in the Israeli cities of Haifa, Tel Aviv, Beersheba and Eilat before the competition returns to Italy.

On Friday, dozens of Palestinian cyclists were set to ride from the West Bank city of Ramallah to the Qalandia checkpoint that separates Jerusalem from the West Bank.

The Cycling Palestine group called on fellow Palestinian cyclists to “join a peaceful cycling protest to express our rejection of the blatant violations and disregard of the deteriorating situation in Palestine by cooperating with the occupying authority that is exhibiting the complete opposite of the values celebrated by European countries”.

It said that the Giro D’Italia was “marginalizing the Palestinian people in general, because it is assuaging Israel by presenting Jerusalem as a unified city under Israel’s sovereignty”.

The majority of the international community considers Jerusalem to be a city whose status must be decided in negotiations between both sides, while Israel says that Jerusalem is its undivided capital. The Palestinians have accused Israeli authorities of attempting to remove their presence from the city.