A win for BDS? Israeli Bible Marathon kicked out of international forum

The Israeli Bible Marathon runs through the West Bank, which the international community sees as occupied territories.

September 17, 2017 15:36
2 minute read.
The Palestine Marathon

Participants run in Israeli Bible Marathon in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The international marathon body has revoked the membership of Israeli 'Bible Marathon,' a decision purportedly based on claims by BDS activists that the run violates international law, as its route goes through territories seen by the international community as occupied.

The Bible Marathon was launched in 2015, beginning in Rosh Ha'ayin in central Israel and ending in Shiloh, a biblical city located in the West Bank. The route retraces the footsteps of the "man of Benjamin," who ran from the battlefield at Eben Ezer (modern day Rosh Ha’ayin) to Shiloh, city of the Tabernacle, as told in the beginning of the Book of Samuel. Organizers say that the 42-kilometer run is "one of the first runs recorded in human history — long before the 'marathon' told of in Greek mythology."

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On Sunday, the Bible Marathon group announced that it had received a notice from the president of the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) rescinding it membership and claiming that the race goes beyond the boundaries of the state of Israel and therefore is a violation of UNSC resolution 2334.

The Israeli Marathon Association subsequently instructed Professor Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum to act on their behalf to legally resolve this issue, since there is no legal precedent for such actions.

Kontorovich, Professor of International Law at Northwestern University and Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, sent a formal letter to the organization’s president, accusing it of applying double standards to Israel.

“There is no international law that prohibits running the route of the world’s oldest race because it finishes in Ancient Shiloh," he wrote. "You can’t have one international law for Israel and another for the rest of the world. By definition international law applies to everybody.”

Kontorovich cited multiple annual sporting events including marathons that are held in disputed or occupied territories: he mentioned Moroccan teams in the disputed territory of Western Sahara which are recognized by FIFA; and the International Trail Running Association's approval of races in Russian-annexed Crimea.

"In none of these cases have these actions been thought to be prohibited by international law," he emphasized.

“AIMS has for many years given full membership to the Laayoune Marathon, which takes place entirely in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara," he continued. "Indeed, on the AIMS website and catalog, the event is described as being in 'Morocco' despite the rejection of this characterization by the international community, which regards it as occupied.”

The letter concludes: “We respectfully request that the Bible Marathon promptly be given AIMS membership as required by the association’s rules, and by its longstanding practice. Such a decision will in no way involve an expression of opinion on AIMS part on the underlying political dispute. Failing this, we will resist AIMS’s unjust and politicized denial of membership to the world’s oldest running event in every forum available to us.”

The Palestinian Authority has in the past condemned the Bible Marathon as an “aggression against the Palestinian territories and the continuation of Israeli arrogance” and has called on international institutions and human rights groups to “focus on the terror of settlers, which is this time disguised in sports clothing.”

According to Bible Marathon organizers, thousands of runners from Israel and abroad are expected to participate in the October 6 event, in spite of the AIMS decision, which the organizers hope will be changed by then.

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