The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on Wednesday called for runners and sponsors to boycott the 2013 Jerusalem Marathon, claiming involvement in it implies acceptance of Israel's “illegal annexation” of eastern Jerusalem.
In a statement quoted by AFP, the PLO 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-kilometer marathon, the half marathon or a 10-kilometer dash.
The race starts at the Knesset and follows a hilly course, part of which goes through eastern Jerusalem including a short stretch inside the 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 what it claimed were the "racist policies" of the Israeli government which, it stated, 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, according to AFP.
"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," added the statement.
Several weeks ago, the Palestinian Authority (PA) warned Israel not to use the race to “Judaize” the city, presenting it as a “unified capital of Israel.”
The chairman of the PLO's action committee, Ahmed Qureia, warned Israel to ensure that marathoners stay away from the Temple Mount, where the Al-Aqsa mosque is located.
Qureia said that, as it has in the past, Israel was “using” the event to promote an image of a unified, Jewish city. “This has been Israel's strategy since 1967, and it has resulted in land confiscations and expulsions of Palestinians,” he said. Qureia warned the Municipality and the Israeli government to ensure that the runners stay away from the Temple Mount, and preferably all Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. He did not say how Arabs would react if the routes were not adjusted to his instructions.
Last year, sports ministers of Arab countries announced a boycott of the Adidas company because of the sponsorship it gave to the Jerusalem Marathon.
Hamas had also declared a boycott on Adidas over the Jerusalem Marathon at the time, and Hamas’ Gaza-based Ministry of Sports organized a demonstration against the company, during which participants burned shirts with the Adidas company logo.
Reacting to Wednesday’s PLO statement, Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry, expressed frustration over the call for a boycott.
"The Palestinians would do better to be in favor of something instead of always being systematically against," he told AFP.
"If they were in favor of something that we could do together, that could help their cause faster than they think," added Palmor.