French activists of the Palestinian solidarity movement could not bear to see an important sporting event being misused to do ‘sports washing’. They hoisted the Palestinian flag along the Tour de France 2020 route to protest against the first participation of Israel Start-Up Nation.
The Israeli team has already shown itself on a number of Belgian classics. Following the French actions, the Palestinian flag already flew on the Binckbank Tour, the Brabantse Pijl and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Last Sunday it was Gent-Wevelgem’s turn, a race that takes place in Flanders Fields, where the horror of war has struck so hard.
Billionaire Sylvan Adams founded the squad in 2015 because he “wants to show people how normal Israel is – that it is a modern, western, pluralistic and free nation where everyone gets along”. However, Israel is not an ordinary nation. The country violates the Palestinian right to self-determination. Israel is an Apartheid state (check the definition / criteria in the 1973 International Convention against Apartheid) which is guilty of large-scale human rights violations. The Israeli government is subjecting Palestinians to a military regime. Activists are locked up or shot during protests. At checkpoints across the West Bank, people are subjected to humiliation and beatings. The army is destroying farmland and houses of Palestinian families that have to make way for the rapid expansion of occupation infrastructure. In Gaza, fishermen face shelling and seizures from their boats. Evidence is piling up that Israel is a racist colonial power that is cluttering the West Bank with settlements and has subjected Gaza to a suffocating embargo for years.
“Ambassadors for Israel”
No expense or effort has been spared to ensure that the team’s name should sound familiar with a clear political purpose: to hide human rights violations behind a grand PR facade. Israel Start-Up Nation will take over the WorldTour license from the retired Team Katjoesja Alpecin in 2019. This summer, the Israeli squad managed to secure four-time tour winner Chris Froome for the next three seasons. Shortly afterwards, it became known that Canadian climber Michael Woods will also make the switch to the Israeli team to help realize and emphasize the team’s tourbitions. Adams previously paid a lot of money to hire other experienced riders such as sprinter André Greipel or lap rider Dan Martin. With the team, Sylvan Adams does not only want to score sportively: “The team members are ambassadors for Israel, the backbone of the team. We use sport to create ties and promote the country’s image. ”
Activists from various organizations (ILPS, Palestine Solidarity, Platforme Palestine – Charleroi, Oxfam Wereldwinkel Ieper, Vrede vzw and Kathe Kollwitz Collectief) want to punctuate the propaganda of Israel Start-Up Nation and set up at two places along the route last Sunday. The message is clear: sport should not be abused to launder Israeli human rights violations and colonialism!