RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories, February 27 – The PLO has called for runners and sponsors to boycott the 2013 Jerusalem marathon, saying involvement implies acceptance of Israel’s illegal annexation of the city’s eastern sector.
In a statement, the Palestine Liberation Organisation appealed to “all participants and sponsors of the International Jerusalem Winner Marathon to withdraw their sponsorship and participation or else become complicit in covering up Israel’s grave human rights abuses in its occupation of the State of Palestine.”
The race which takes place on Friday, will see thousands of runners participating in either the full 42-kilometre marathon, the half marathon or a 10-kilometre dash.
Kenya’s David Cherono won last year’s men’s race in 2:12:00 beating Ethiopia’s Gudecha Gemechu and compatriot John Kipkorir to second and third places.
It starts at the Israeli parliament and follows a hilly course, part of which goes through Arab east Jerusalem including a short stretch inside the walled Old City.
In a joint statement, the Palestine Olympic Committee, the Palestinian Athletics Federation and the Higher Council of Youth and Sports said the course demonstrated the “racist policies” of the Israeli government which was “moving the runners from west to east as though the city were truly united.”
“This marathon is part and parcel of other Israeli policies and practices in Jerusalem that are aimed at exerting Israeli control over the occupied city and isolate it from the rest of Palestine,” it said.
“Sponsoring or participating in the marathon implies recognition and active participation by the individual or company in Israel’s illegal annexation and racist policies in Jerusalem.”
Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry expressed frustration over the call for a boycott.
“The Palestinians would do better to be in favour of something instead of always being systematically against,” he told AFP.
“If they were in favour of something that we could do together, that could help their cause faster than they think.”
This year, organisers say 20,000 runners have signed up to compete in the city’s third annual marathon, with participants coming from 52 different countries.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the rest of the world.
The Jewish state considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital, a claim not recognised by the international community. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state.
The call came as an internal EU report found that Israel’s settlement construction in east Jerusalem was part of a deliberate strategy to prevent the city from becoming capital of two states.