BNC Statement

New Balance and InterContinental Hotel Group: drop sponsorship of Jerusalem apartheid marathon or face international boycotts

Occupied Palestine, 25 February 2013 – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a broad coalition of the largest Palestinian civil society organizations, trade unions, refugee associations and NGO networks, calls on sports merchandize company New Balance and the InterContinental Hotel Group to immediately withdraw sponsorship from the Jerusalem marathon taking place on 1 March 2013.

Occupied Palestine, 25 February 2013 – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a broad coalition of the largest Palestinian civil society organizations, trade unions, refugee associations and NGO networks, calls on sports merchandize company New Balance and the InterContinental Hotel Group to immediately withdraw sponsorship from the Jerusalem marathon taking place on 1 March 2013. Maintaining sponsorship of the marathon, organized by the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality, legitimizes Israel’s illegal annexation of the city and lends support to the ongoing colonization, ethnic cleansing and dispossession of Palestinians at the hands of the Municipality and the Israeli government. This would justify a world-wide BDS campaign against both corporations.

The BNC welcomes the call issued by the Palestinian Olympic Committee, Athletics Federation and Higher Council of Youth and Sport on both companies to rescind their support for the marathon or face legal action. The Jerusalem marathon had been sponsored in the past two years by Adidas. As a result, the company was a target of an Arab-wide boycott campaign that led it to distance itself from the marathon this year.[1] International sponsorship of the marathon serves the Jerusalem Municipality’s whitewashing efforts to promote itself to the world as an open and diverse city, when in fact the opposite is true.

Israel militarily occupied the western part of Jerusalem in 1948, after depopulating 38 surrounding 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 the city’s status remains such.[2]

Following the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip, among other Arab territories, Israel annexed East Jerusalem as part of its “united capital” in blatant violation of international law. Large-scale confiscation of Palestinian land and the systematic transfer of Jewish settlers into the occupied Palestinian city have since transformed East Jerusalem into urban space dominated by Israeli colonies and infrastructure serving their needs.

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.[3] The UN has consistently maintained 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.[4]” The New Balance and InterContinental Hotel Group’s partnership with the Jerusalem Municipality, on east or west of the city, violates these long held precepts of international law.

Israel’s illegal policies of changing the demographic composition of Jerusalem and monopolizing its history are well-documented and widely condemned.[5] Palestinians, who now make a third of the city’s residents, are target of a systematic policy to push them out of the city through residency card revocations, house demolitions and a planning regime which prevent Palestinians from building houses and expand their neighborhoods. Since 1967, over 14,000 Palestinians had their residency revoked and thus prevented from entering the city,[6] and in the past decade alone the Israeli authorities demolished 436 Palestinian houses in Jerusalem leaving 1708 homeless.[7] All the while Israel continues to expand its illegal Jewish-only settlements on land expropriated from Palestinians and its courts have sanctioned forced settler takeovers of family houses in Palestinian neighborhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah through which the marathon will pass. Furthermore, the Jerusalem Municipality has used archeology to displace Palestinians from their homes, exemplified by the case of Silwan where 88 Palestinian houses face demolitions to give way to a settler-run park.[8]

The delineation of the Israeli-defined boundary of Jerusalem is based on demographic considerations excluding from its fold Palestinian areas historically connected to Jerusalem. Israel has taken measures that prevent millions of Palestinians, some living only minutes away, from accessing their capital, turning Jerusalem to a de facto exclusive Jewish town. Israel’s apartheid wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, encircles Jerusalem and severs it from the rest of the West Bank. A system of permits defines which Palestinians can enter and live in the city echoing the worst excesses of South Africa’s apartheid. This attempt of demographic engineering is openly touted in official documents of the Jerusalem Municipality and reaffirmed on a yearly basis since 1973 by the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Jerusalem as a guiding principle of municipal planning policy.[9]

The cumulative consequence of Israel’s policies has been acknowledged by the European Union Heads of Mission in Jerusalem as “undermining Palestinian presence” in the city[10] and defined as “ethnic cleansing” by the UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT Richard Falk.[11]

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.”[12]

According to Human Rights Watch[13] “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.” A UN report published this month following an investigation of Israel’s settlement practices tasks states to adopt appropriate measures to ensure that businesses respect this obligation.[14]

The sponsorship of the Jerusalem marathon by the sports merchandize company New Balance and the InterContinental Hotel Group constitutes direct material support to the Jerusalem Municipality, the party responsible for the implementation of these policies, and thus subject to international criminal legislation as confirmed by a recent UN report endorsed by the General Assembly.[15]

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. According to the 1985 International Convention Against Apartheid in Sports, “sports contact with any country practicing apartheid in sports condones and strengthens apartheid.”[16] Other sponsors of the marathon include settler companies Eden Springs and Mehadrin, both targets of high profile global boycott campaigns.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) calls on New Balance and the InterContinental Hotel Group to immediately rescind their sponsorship agreement for the marathon with the Jerusalem Municipality. Their refusal to distance from the event would put them 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 and legal criminal charges against the company and its board.

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

[9] Inter-ministerial Committee to Examine the Rate of Development for Jerusalem, Recommendation for a Coordinated and Consolidated Rate of Development (in Hebrew), Jerusalem, August, 1973, p.3. and see Jerusalem Local Outline Plan 2000 by the Jerusalem Muncipality

[11] 2011 report of the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights in the OPT Richard Falk presented to the UN Human Rights Council focuses on Israeli policies in Jerusalem

[13]  “Separate and Unequal” (2010)


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