City councilors to Adidas: Boycott Jerusalem Marathon

Opposition wants race out of east J’lem: “A marathon doesn't bring Jews, Arabs together. This is just an aggressive move,” Meretz councilman says.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
December 7, 2010 01:08
3 minute read.
The Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev.

311_Pisgat Zeev view of homes. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Three Jerusalem City Council members from the opposition sent a warning letter last week to sports apparel company Adidas, one of the major sponsors of the International Jerusalem Marathon, calling on the company to withdraw its sponsorship of the race if the municipality did not remove east Jerusalem segments from the route.

“There’s no reason why it needs to go through the eastern part of the city,” said City Councilman Pepe Alalu (Meretz), who heads the opposition. “A marathon does not bring Jews and Arabs together. This is just an aggressive move.”

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The letter was co-signed by Laura Wharton and Meir Margalit, both of Meretz.

The current route of the marathon, which will be held on March 25, starts at the Knesset and takes runners all the way out to Pisgat Ze’ev, before circling Hebrew University, entering the Old City at the Zion Gate, wending its way through the hills of Rehavia and Talpiyot to the promenade, and finally doubling back to the Knesset.

“As members of the Jerusalem City Council, we feel it is our duty to inform you that this year, the path of the marathon is due to run through parts of east Jerusalem that are considered occupied territory by the international community and by us,” the Meretz letter to Adidas stated.

“For that reason, we object to the marathon as it is now planned and believe it is important that you realize that a significant portion of the Israeli population as well as an overwhelming majority of the general population abroad will doubtless express their opposition once the details of the marathon are made public,” it continued.

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City Councilman Elisha Peleg (Likud), who holds the sport portfolio, accused the opposition of skewering every initiative and event that the municipality created.

“A small part of it runs through east Jerusalem because east Jerusalem is part of Jerusalem, and that’s not political; it’s factual,” he said.

He added that if the marathon’s route did not go through east Jerusalem, people would complain that the municipality was ignoring half of the residents.

Alalu dismissed the idea that the city was using a marathon to unite the two sides of the city.

“It reminds me of the wellknown story: If they don’t have bread, let them eat cake,” Alalu said. He plans to reach out to other sponsors, as well as runners themselves, and encourage them to boycott the race until the route is changed.

“These three city council members are contradicting themselves,” said Peleg. “On the one hand, they’re saying we don’t do enough for infrastructure and budgets in east Jerusalem, and on the other hand, they’re saying, ‘Don’t do anything there.’” This is the first time Jerusalem is holding an international marathon. Over 1,000 runners are expected to take part in the race, with a half-marathon and 10k routes offered as well (www.jerusalemmarathon.

com). Organizers hope Jerusalem’s hills and breathtaking scenery, as well as historical and political elements, will make the race an interesting if unorthodox choice for international runners.

Peleg said the municipality would not change the route, and he doubted that Adidas would respond to the opposition’s request.

“Adidas will not take this call seriously because they’re not involved in politics. They’re involved in sports,” he said.

Adidas did not respond to questions.

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