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Jordanian Boycott Sabotages Int'l Environment Bike Ride

An international environmental awareness cycling tour set for October 8 has been sabotaged by a Jordanian Islamist boycott of Israel.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 10/7/2010, 3:12 PM / Last Update: 10/7/2010, 4:07 PM

Hana Levi Julian

An international environmental awareness bike ride set for October 8 by Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority Arab participants has been sabotaged by Islamist politics.

The three-day “torch run,” which was to begin in Jordan, would have continued on to Israel and ended in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas, highlighting the impact of climate change on the lower Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Israel, Jordan and the PA share control of the bodies of water.

But a Jordanian trade unions committee opposed to ties with Israel accused the local Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) on September 29 of “working to impose normalization with the Zionist enemy under cover of environmental activities.” Despite a peace treaty signed between Israel and Jordan in 1994, Islamists in the Hashemite Kingdom vehemently reject any cooperative projects with the Jewish State.

The committee managed to intimidate the environmental group, leading to the pull-out of both Jordanian and PA members of the cycling tour. Committee head Badi Rafaiyah said in a statement that if Israel “is really concerned with the environment, it should stop tearing down trees, burning land in the Jordan Valley and polluting the waters of the Jordan River and Dead Sea.”

Abdelrahman Sultan, Jordan’s FoEME deputy director, blamed the “Middle East peace crisis and Israeli settlement building” for the boycott. “Our goal was not political,” he told the AFP news service Wednesday. But “we understand that the event could provoke some people, so we and the Palestinians decided to cancel our participation to avoid provocations. The Israeli activists will go ahead with the event inside Israel,” he added.

According to Israel’s Environment Ministry, the water level in the Dead Sea, bordered by Jordan and Israel, dropped by 16 centimeters in September, with the body of water measured at 423.83 meters below sea level. Just one year ago, the sea had lost only six centimeters of water during the same period.

September’s loss was added to a fall of 14 centimeters in the Dead Sea water level in August, and altogether experts say there has been a total loss of 94 centimeters of water thus far since January, compared to 84 centimeters for all of 2009. The Dead Sea has lost nearly 10 meters of water during the past 10 years.