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Human rights groups urge Giro d'Italia to ditch plans for Israeli Big Start

More than 120 organisations sign appeal to race organisers, highlighting plight of Palestinians

More than 120 organisations have today issued an appeal to Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport not to hold the start of next year’s race in Israel because of what they see as the country’s “grave and escalating violations of international law and Palestinians’ human rights.”

The appeal, led by the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, comes a week to the day before the full route of next year’s race is due to be announced in Milan, with next Wednesday also coinciding with the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Besides human rights organisations and trade unions, signatories to the appeal also include the American intellectual Noam Chomsky, the former UN Special Rapporteurs on Palestinian rights John Dugard and Richard Falk, and ex-vice president of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini.

Details of the three-day Big Start in Israel were announced by RCS Sport in September, with the race due to begin with a 10.1-kilometre individual time trial in Jerusalem, followed by two road stages.

> Details of Israeli Big Start for 2018 Giro d'Italia unveiled

At the time, Giro d’Italia race director Mauro Vegni said: “We are really proud to announce this Big Start to the world today.

“Every year the Giro tells the stories of places of great interest. Cities such as Jerusalem, with the initial ITT, Tel Aviv, with the finish on the seafront, the starts from Haifa and Be’er Sheva, Eilat and the Red Sea, are part of this philosophy.

“The territories crossed by the stages in Israel will show to the world tradition, culture and beautiful landscape. We will see spectacular stages, that will surprise both from a sporting perspective and from the landscape point of view.

“I am convinced the welcome for the Corsa Rosa – as we have already seen in the previous Big Starts abroad – will be really special,” he added.

The race’s visit coincides with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, but the organisations protesting against the race’s visit to the country highlight that for Palestinians, it marks “70 years of dispossession, forcible displacement and denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees as set forth in UN resolutions.”

They add: “In official race imagery, maps and videos, Giro d’Italia is deceptively portraying East Jerusalem, which has been under Israeli military occupation for fifty years, as if it were part of Israel and the unified capital of the State of Israel.

“The final stage planned for southern Israel will pass by dozens of Palestinian Bedouin villages Israel refuses to recognize or provide with “the most basic of services, including electricity, water, clinics, schools and roads,” one of which Israel has demolished over 100 times.”

Signatories are demanding that RCS Sport “move the start of the race to another country to ensure no involvement in Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.”

While RCS Sport insists that the decision to begin next year’s race in Israel is a sporting, not political one, what will be the biggest sporting event ever staged in the country has been widely viewed as a public relations coup for the country’s government.

With the race expected to finish in Rome next year, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has invited Pope Francis to Jerusalem to officially start the race, but protesters are urging him not to accept.

Meanwhile, this coming weekend will see cyclists in cities across Italy ride in protest at Israel’s hosting of the Giro.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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