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Pope urged to reject offer to attend Giro d'Italia in Israel

Joe Robinson
22 Nov 2017

Palestinians urge Pope Francis against blessing Giro d'Italia start in Israel

In an open letter, Palestinians have urged Pope Francis to reject an invitation to bless the start of the 2018 Giro d'Italia in Israel. Addressed from a collection Palestinian civil groups, the letter pleads with the leader of the Catholic Church to distance himself from the race due to 'its unfortunate insistence on whitewashing Israel’s military occupation and grave human rights violations'.

It is understood that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Pope Francis to launch next year's Giro, which will start in Jerusalem.

The letter - published on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel website - goes on to claim that the Israeli government is using the Pope's stature as a 'propaganda effort' to hide its occupation and construction of settlements in 'occupied Palestinian land especially in East Jerusalem'.

It then goes onto attack the Giro d'Italia for its decision to take place in Israel, claiming that by accepting money from Israel for the race, they were supporting the Israeli government and its 'illegal claim of sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem'.

Since the announcement by race organisers RCS that the Giro will be starting in Israel, calls have been made by pro-Palestinian organisations for the wholesale boycott of the race.

Next year will mark the 80th anniversary since the establishment of the state of Israel and 51 years since the occupation of Palestinian territories after the Six-Day War.

This continued occupation has caused recurring violence in the area and sparked international division over the issue.

This violence, alongside its damaged human rights record, has been the route cause for the continued calls for boycotting Israel, including next year's Giro.

Despite these concerns, when speaking to Cyclist last month, Giro race director Mauro Vegni emphasised that Israel is recognised by the United Nations and UCI and that the race will remain detached from the on-going political issues surrounding Israel and Palestine.

'Firstly, Israel is recognised by the UN. Secondly, Israel is recognised by the UCI. We go [to Israel] for sports and not politics. This is the philosophy behind our decision.'

Cyclist.co.uk will be reporting on the 2018 Giro d'Italia as usual.