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posted by Morning Star in Sport

Organisers succumb to Tel Aviv demands rather than ditch pariah state

GIRO D’ITALIA organisers yielded to pressure from Israel yesterday to remove references to “West Jerusalem” on its tour programme, using “Jerusalem” instead.

The opening stage of the Giro is planned to start in Jerusalem, despite opposition from human rights campaigners who oppose Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

While the race will deliberately avoid illegally occupied territory, campaigners still say the Giro is “directly complicit in Israel’s propaganda claim” that Jerusalem is a “unified” city under its sovereignty, which is not recognised by the UN, the EU or Italy.

The UN considers East Jerusalem as part of the occupied Palestinian territory and does not recognise any part of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Two Israeli ministers threatened on Wednesday night to withdraw Israeli sponsorship from the race unless organisers made official acknowledgment of Jerusalem as under Israeli sovereignty.

Within hours of the threat, race organisers edited the official Giro d’Italia website to erase the East-West distinction, lending recognition to Israel’s illegal hold over occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel is reportedly paying €10 million (£8.8m) to host the opening stage as part of its campaign to whitewash its consistent human rights violations against Palestinians.

Cycling Weekly has reported that Chris Froome, who could compete an unprecedented Grand Tour triple if he wins the Giro, is being paid €2m directly to take part.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’s Stephanie Adam said that ministers’ threats had offered organisers an “exit strategy” to end their “complicity in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinians’ human rights.”

Instead, it “shamefully chose to bow to Israeli pressure and recognise Israel’s illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, contravening international law and the Italian government’s own position,” she said.

Adam said the initial “clumsy” attempt to swerve criticism by adding “west” to the stage name “did nothing to change the fact that one of cycling’s top races is complicit in covering up the actions of an oppressive government operating outside the rule of law.

“Giro d’Italia’s dishonest insistence on keeping politics out of sport has proven to be nothing more than lip service to deflect criticism for its acceptance of a large Israeli bribe in return for politicising the race and using its name to whitewash human rights violations.”

She said governing body UCI must step in to “avoid tarnishing one of the world’s most beloved cycling races” by relocating.

“We hear Puglia is lovely in the spring,” she quipped.

The Israel Cycling Federation sponsors and holds competitive races in areas under Israeli military occupation in violation of international law.

Just days before the Giro d’Italia, the Israeli cycling team, which is up for a wildcard slot to participate in the Giro d’Italia, will participate in a race through occupied East Jerusalem to the illegal Israeli settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev.

Israel was reportedly pleased at the change.