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Human rights groups call for Italian cycling race to be moved from Israel

By The Palestine Monitor - November 27, 2017
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [BDS] [sports]

More than 120 human rights organizations, trade unions, ethical tourism associations, sports and faith-based groups from over 20 countries issued a call urging cycling race Giro d’Italia to move its “Big Start” from Israel, which they see as a sign of acquiescence to growing violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.

Italian and Israeli officials announced last September that the prestigious 2018 event would start in Jerusalem, and that its first three stages will be held in the country - marking the first time the race is held outside European borders.

The race will be officially presented in Milan on November 29, coinciding with the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The statement calls on the RCS Media Group, which organises the race, “to move the start of the race to another country to ensure no involvement in Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.”

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Italian officials said the race would avoid politically sensitive areas like the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians envisage as their future capital. Stage one of the route will approach but not enter the Old City.

“On its web site and official social media channels, Giro d’Italia deceptively portrays occupied East Jerusalem as part of Israel and as its unified capital,” the statement released by the human rights groups rebuked. “No country in the world recognizes any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

The race will also pass through the Naqab (Negev) desert, where Palestinian Bedouins who hold Israeli citizenship live in dozens of villages Israel refuses to recognise. The villages lack basic infrastructure and are often the target of demolitions. One of them, Al-Araqib, was demolished more than 100 times.

Among the signatories are philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, former United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Palestinian rights John Dugard and Richard Falk, three European Parliament members from Italy and actor and playwright Moni Ovadia.

The statement slammed the race for its plans to celebrate 70 years since Israel's independence, at a time when Palestinians will mark the 70th anniversary of the Nakba (“catastrophe”), when 800,000 Palestinians were forced to leave their homes during the 1948 war.

Palestinian civil society groups have also written to Pope Francis urging him to reject the invitation from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to launch the race in Israel.

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