Israel has today closed several roads in the occupied West Bank to make way for its “Bible Marathon”, in which settlers and pro-Israel internationals take part.
Roads between Salfit and Nablus and Ramallah and Nablus, in the north of the occupied West Bank, were closed to allow runners exclusive access to them. “Palestinians are forced to take alternative roads, which may be rugged and dangerous, to reach their cities following the closure,” according to Quds Press.
In a statement the official in charge of the settlement issue in the occupied West Bank, Ghassan Douglas, said that the event constituted “a political message and an attempt to legitimise the settlements and the presence of settlers,” Quds Press added.
Citing Israel’s Channel 7, Quds Press also reported that 4,000 runners from 15 countries were participating in the event. Among the participants were members of HaYovel, a group of Christian Zionists who claim the occupied West Bank represents “the historical and spiritual heartland of Israel”. HaYovel raises money to support illegal Israeli settlers who farm Palestinian land and has entered 12 teams of runners into this year’s Bible Marathon.
The Bible Marathon is an annual event which sees runners begin in Rosh Haayin, east of Tel Aviv, before running 42 kilometres to the illegal Israeli settlement of Shiloh, situated on the Ramallah-Nablus road in the occupied West Bank. The surrounding area is dense with illegal Israeli settlements, including Ariel, Eli and Ma’ale Efraim. Shiloh also overlooks the nearby Palestinian village of Duma, home to the Dawabsheh family who were murdered in an arson attack on their home in 2015. The attack killed three members of the family, including 18-month-old baby Ali, and left his brother Ahmed orphaned. In August, Israel’s plans to expand the nearby Amichai settlement were revealed. The expansion was intended to incorporate the neighbouring outpost of Adei Ad, previously home to Amiram Ben-Uriel – the extremist Israeli settler who killed the Dawabsheh family.
Earlier this week, statistics from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) showed that construction rates for illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank more than doubled in the second quarter of 2018. The CBS data showed that Israel began constructing 794 new dwellings in the occupied West Bank in the past three months, more than double that of the first quarter of 2018. This year’s figure was also higher than that of the same time in 2017, demonstrating an increase in the pace of Israel’s illegal settlement of Palestinian land.
Although settlements were designated a “final status issue” under the Oslo Accords, Israel has pursued a consistent policy of settling the occupied West Bank in the 25 years since. In 1992 there were approximately 105,000 illegal Israeli settlers, according to data by NGO Peace Now. By 2017 Peace Now estimated there were over 413,000 illegal Israeli settlers, an almost four-fold increase.