BNC Statement

Adidas: Apartheid is not fair play, drop sponsorship of Jerusalem marathon

Occupied Palestine, 14 February 2011 – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations and unions, calls on Adidas to withdraw its sponsorship of the first Jerusalem marathon to take place on March 25, 2011 to avoid becoming complicit in covering up Israel's war crimes and grave human rights abuses.

Occupied Palestine, 14 February 2011 – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations and unions, calls on Adidas to withdraw its sponsorship of the first Jerusalem marathon to take place on March 25, 2011 to avoid becoming complicit in covering up Israel's war crimes and grave human rights abuses. Israel has been consistently, systematically, and quite blatantly working to “Judaize”[1] Jerusalem through policies of ethnic cleansing directed at the indigenous Palestinian population to change the demographic reality of the occupied city, in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international human rights law.

A recent report by European Union Heads of Mission in Jerusalem stated that “the continued expansion of [colonial] settlements, restrictive zoning and planning, ongoing demolitions and evictions, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care, the inadequate provision of resources and investment and the precarious residency issue have not only serious humanitarian consequences, they undermine the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem[2].” Adidas’s sponsorship of the marathon organized by the Jerusalem Municipality, the party responsible for the implementation of these policies, will be perceived as a stamp of approval of Israel’s violations of international law in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

The Jerusalem Municipality, a key node in the official Israeli structure of colonialism and apartheid, is a leading violator of Palestinian human rights. Since its inception, it has been a major instrument in the colonization of Israeli-occupied Jerusalem. It is particularly notable for its role in promoting and deepening one of the starkest cases of urban apartheid in the world. The municipality continues to be actively involved in the illegal gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians out of Jerusalem, the demolition of Palestinian homes and destruction of property, and the sustained suppression of development in the Palestinian neighborhoods as a matter of policy.[3]

Adidas’s association with the marathon is visible in billboards around the city, including in illegal Jewish colonies where the marathon route follows. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch,[4] "Palestinians face systematic discrimination merely because of their race, ethnicity, and national origin, depriving them of electricity, water, schools, and access to roads, while nearby Jewish settlers enjoy all of these state-provided benefits,” adding that “businesses have contributed to or benefited directly from discrimination against Palestinians.” Human Rights Watch called on companies to “investigate, prevent and mitigate such violations, including ending any operations that cannot be separated from discriminatory Israeli practices.”

The marathon is part of an ongoing process to institutionalize Israel’s hold on the occupied city. Israel militarily occupied the western part of Jerusalem in 1948, after depopulating 38 Palestinian villages and appropriating the lands and properties of its residents, rendering them refugees and denying them reparations, including their UN-sanctioned right of return. The world community does not recognize any part of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, particularly because under UN General Assembly resolution 181 (1947) Jerusalem was established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People confirmed that city’s status remains such[5]. In 1967, Israel occupied East Jerusalem, unilaterally annexing it as part of its “united capital.” Due to these factors combined, governments have refrained from recognizing Israel’s actions in the city, including the racist manipulation of its demographic composition, one that limits the number of Palestinians in favor of Israeli Jews[6]. The UN has maintained several times that "any actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the Holy City of Jerusalem are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever, and calls upon Israel to cease all such illegal and unilateral measures[7]." Adidas’s partnership with the Jerusalem Municipality, on east or west of the city, violates these long held precepts of international law.

Furthermore, the organizers of the marathon make no secret that the event is to be used to promote Israel’s image abroad. Runners will pass through Jerusalem’s key sites. Its other sponsors include the Ministry of Tourism and El Al, the flag carrier of Israel. The marathon is overtly deployed by Israel to ‘rebrand’ the state as an attractive holiday destination, and to cover up its occupation, colonization and apartheid policies. This contradicts Adidas’s claim that, “as a general rule we do not influence any political processes or event details, we focus on the athletes and their needs for the marathon.”[8] According to the 1985 International Convention Against Apartheid in Sports, “sports contact with any country practicing apartheid in sports condones and strengthens apartheid.”[9]

Condemned as a state that is practicing occupation, colonization and apartheid by a recent authoritative legal study in South Africa[10], Israel prevents millions of Palestinians who live just minutes away from their capital to access Jerusalem, as part of its regime of separation, including the wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, and a strict regime of residency permits. John Dugard, a leading international law expert and former UN rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, had this to say about the situation of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, in particular:

The similarities between the situation of East Jerusalemites and black South Africans [under apartheid] are very great in respect of their residency rights. We had the old Group Areas Act in South Africa. East Jerusalem has territorial classification that has the same sort of consequences as race classification had in South Africa in respect of who you can marry, where you can live, where you can go to school or hospital.[11]

It is thus not surprising that the Jerusalem marathon website refers to East Jerusalem as “mostly the home of former Jordanian citizens,”[12] painting Palestinians as foreigners instead of the indigenous people of the land. This attitude is consistent with Israel’s ongoing erasure of Palestinian historical presence in the city, including the ongoing wave of demolitions of Palestinian homes in Silwan to turn the area into an “archeological park” and “tourism center”[13] for extremist settlers at the expense of the local Palestinian population who live in fear of constant violent harassment[14]. UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk said of the plan that "international law does not allow Israel to bulldoze Palestinian homes to make space for the mayor’s project to build a garden, or anything else," adding that the plan "should be seen within the context of Israel’s persistent, systematic approach to driving Palestinians out of East Jerusalem." This comes after decades of Israeli crimes including the erasure of over 500 Palestinian villages in 1948, the willful destruction of the Moroccan Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem in 1967, and the more recent desecration of the historic cemetery of Ma'man Allah ("Mamilla") in West Jerusalem, for the purposes of building a so-called “Museum of Tolerance,” all sites marathon runners will pass through.

Other than conflicting with international law, the sponsorship of the marathon is in clear violation of Adidas’s own commitments to “rules that society expects of a responsible company” and “all applicable laws, directives and guidelines.[15]” The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on Adidas to immediately rescind its sponsorship agreement for the marathon with the Jerusalem Municipality. The BNC also calls on people of conscience around the world to urge Adidas to follow through with its stated commitments by canceling this unethical sponsorship. Adidas’s refusal to distance itself from the event would put the company in violation of the most basic obligation not to be complicit in war  crimes and grave human rights abuses,  and would violate the 2005 Palestinian BDS Call, one of the most effective, popular, and non-violent forms of struggle against Israel until it abides by its obligations under international law. This, as a result, would make the company a target of worldwide consumer boycott action. We also remind Adidas's managers that under the principle of individual criminal responsibility, CEOs of companies can be held individually responsible for certain grave violations of international law, including war crimes.[16] Complicity in covering up war crimes and normalizing them is a serious crime in its own right that Adidas should carefully consider.

"Impossible is nothing," Adidas's main slogan proclaims. Ending the company's complicity with Israel's apartheid and war crimes should be quite possible, then.




[1] See, for example, UN SpecialRapporteur, Prof. John Dugard, Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories (A/HRC/7/17,January 2008).

[3] The policies of the Jerusalem Municipality are widely documented. For one example see:

[4] “Separate and Unequal” (2010)

[8] Correspondence with concerned customers

[13] Why 88 Arab homes received eviction notices

[16] War crimes encompass serious violations of the laws and customs of war and international humanitarian law applicable to both international and non-international armed conflicts. The International Criminal Court Statute contains a comprehensive list of war crimes, which include: wilful killing, torture, inhuman treatment, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury, extensive destruction or appropriation of property not justified by military necessity, unlawful deportation or transfer or displacement of the civilian population and intentionally directing attacks against civilian populations . They also include property offences such as pillage and unlawfully destroying or seizing property . See also, International Commission of Jurists, Corporate Complicity & Legal Accountability, 2008, Volume 2, p 4. Source:

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