The town of Bethlehem is set to host its first-ever marathon next month in a race starting at the Nativity Church and going through several “Palestinian refugee camps.”
The so-called “Palestine Marathon” will take place on April 21 and offer runners the choice of three distances: a full 42-kilometer (26-mile) marathon, a half marathon or a 10-kilometer (six-mile) race, organizers said Wednesday.
"We thought it would be good to have a positive activity to show a different side of life here," said Signe Fischer, who has been working for a Danish NGO in Jerusalem for several years.
"We wanted to give Palestinians a new type of activity where they can explore their beautiful countryside," she told the AFP news agency, saying the event has no political agenda and has been two years in the planning.
While the event, being organized in coordination with an umbrella NGO called Right to Movement and the Higher Council of Youth and Sports, claims to be apolitical, the organization’s goals clearly indicate otherwise.
A statement on the website of Right to Movement alleges that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement, but not everyone has the option. Restriction on movement is one of the major challenges for the Palestinian people living under occupation… They do not have a state, and their lands are controlled by a foreign army – that army controls their movement with roadblocks, checkpoints, military zones, an illegal wall and a complex set of discriminatory laws.”
Earlier this month, it was reported that Gaza's third international marathon had been cancelled after Hamas refused to allow women to participate, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for so-called “Palestinian refugees” (UNRWA).
"This disappointing decision follows discussions with the authorities in Gaza who have insisted that no women should participate," the body said in a statement.
While Israel faces ongoing accusations of “apartheid” and allegations of implementing discriminatory polices, the real perpetrators of such crimes are the Arab regimes and terrorist organizations like Hamas.
In fact, the PLO recently called for runners and sponsors of the 2013 Jerusalem Marathon to boycott the race, claiming support implies acceptance of Israel's “illegal annexation” of eastern Jerusalem, when in fact people of all religions, nationalities and genders are afforded the right to participate.