Update

Giro d’Italia World Cycling Event to Peddle Israeli Propaganda

Famed Italian cycling race will serve Israel’s propaganda efforts to cover-up its oppressive policies against Palestinians.

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Giro d'Italia press conference in Jerusalem
Giro d'Italia press conference in Jerusalem, September 18, 2017

September 19, 2017 — Yesterday, at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev and her Italian counterpart Luca Lotti confirmed plans to launch next year’s Giro d’Italia, one of the world’s top annual cycling events, in Israel in May 2018. The race is scheduled to start in Jerusalem, with stages from Haifa to Tel Aviv and in the Naqab (Negev).

At the press conference, Israeli officials stated the race, organized by Italian media conglomerate RCS MediaGroup, will “celebrate” 70 years since the establishment of Israel.

Sharaf Qutaifan, from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), said:

Starting the Giro d’Italia in Israel effectively rewards Israel for its decades-long human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, including athletes. Israel has bombed Palestinian sports stadiums, detained, imprisoned and killed Palestinian athletes, raided Palestinian sports associations and destroyed playing fields with total impunity. Holding the race in Israel goes against the ideals and principles of sports.

By working with the Israeli government to “celebrate” Israel’s 70th anniversary, race organizers RCS MediaGroup will, in effect, be celebrating 70 years of Palestinian dispossession. Our Nakba, or “catastrophe,” started in 1948 when approximately 800,000 indigenous Palestinians were forcibly expelled from their homes and continues today with Israel’s policy of systematic forcible transfer, home demolitions and the denial of Palestinian refugees’ UN-sanctioned right of return.

To claim this race will somehow “unite” is ludicrous and an affront to Palestinians forced for decades to navigate Israel’s lethal obstacle course of bombs, bullets, checkpoints, roadblocks and walls.

RCS Media Group’s decision to hold this race in Israel makes it complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ human rights, and will serve Israel’s propaganda efforts to use this race to cover-up its oppressive policies against Palestinians.

At the announcement event, Israeli ministers repeatedly presented Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, going against the international consensus.

Why is RCS MediaGroup using its race to mask Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies?

Israel is shelling out an estimated 12 million euros ($14.3 million) for the event, including 4 million euros ($4.8 million) directly to RCS MediaGroup for hosting rights, as part of its attempts to improve its dismal standing in world public opinion. A recent BBC poll shows Israel as the fourth least popular state in the world.

Behind the efforts to start the race in Israel is the Israel Cycling Academy (ICA), founded just three years ago and backed by Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams. During the ICA press conference yesterday, Adams openly stated that a “mission” of the Israeli cycling team is to act as an ambassador for Israel. The ICA is partnered with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, which has been working to bring celebrities and influential figures to Israel.

A growing number of celebrities, from famed US football players to Oscar nominees, are  distancing themselves from these propaganda efforts to improve Israel’s image and cover up its violations of Palestinian human rights.

Qutaifan concluded:

RCS MediaGroup should relocate the race and respect its obligation to not aid or abet Israel’s grave violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. Would RCS have organized a race that started in South Africa under apartheid?

As Palestinians, our finish line is freedom, justice and equality for all. We won’t stop until we get there.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was initiated in 2004 to contribute to the struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. PACBI advocates for the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, given their deep and persistent complicity in Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law. Visit PACBI at https://bdsmovement.net/pacbi and follow us on Twitter @PACBI


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