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A tale of two marathons - and a microcosm of Israeli Apartheid

April 9, 2015 at 11:36 am

The West Bank was cut in two today so Israeli settlers could run a marathon. For seven hours, from 6am to 1pm, Israeli forces shut down the Palestinians’ main north-south road in order to facilitate the ‘Bible Marathon‘, a race that cut east across the West Bank and finished at Shilo settlement.

Aside from the very start, almost the entire route was inside the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), a further sign of Israel’s de-facto annexation of the West Bank and the emergence of an apartheid, ‘one state’ reality.

The race incorporated Ariel University, an Israeli institution located in the illegal settlement of the same name. Shilo, which hosted the finish line and post-race festivities, has a population of some 3,000 Jewish settlers, and is surrounded by Palestinian villages in the heart of the West Bank.

The settlers’ marathon came two weeks after the third Palestine Marathon took place in Bethlehem. Some 3,000 Palestinian and international runners participated, including 46 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who received last-minute permission from Israel to access the West Bank.

Organisers, however, were unable to find a single course of 42km without encountering an Israeli checkpoint or roadblock. Bethlehem is hemmed in by the Wall, settlements, and Israeli-controlled land. Full marathon runners were thus obliged to complete two laps of the same route.

UN data published last October documented 490 different obstacles to Palestinians’ freedom of movement inside the West Bank, including checkpoints, earth mounds, and road gates. This does not include the Apartheid Wall, cutting Palestinians off from lands and neighbouring communities.

As Amnesty International has stated, these “restrictions on the free movement of Palestinians” include “preventing Palestinians using bypass roads constructed for the use of Israeli settlers.”

Israel’s system means that some 350,000 Jewish Israelis (not including 300,000 in Occupied East Jerusalem) live in a network of colonies amongst Palestinians subjected to a military regime that facilitates the colonisation of land and natural resources.

In 2012, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) slammed a host of Israeli violations of Palestinian rights. Israel, the Committee said, was responsible for

The implementation…of two entirely separate legal systems and sets of institutions for Jewish communities grouped in illegal settlements on the one hand and Palestinian populations living in Palestinian towns and villages on the other hand.

According to the Committee, Israel’s policies in the oPt “amount to de facto segregation”, and the Geneva-based body went as far as urging Israel to “eradicate” policies which violate the prohibition of “racial segregation and apartheid.”

This tale of two marathons is a reminder that Israeli Apartheid is alive and well, unthreatened by the support and complicity of the country’s international allies.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.