Ohad Zemet of the Israeli embassy responds to an article accusing the country of ‘sportswashing’. Plus, Salle Dare on The Big Ride for Palestine
Jonathan Liew’s article (Sportswashing is associated with certain countries – why not Israel?, 24 January) stated that Israel uses sport as a “tool of repression”. I wonder what Bibars Natcho, the Muslim captain of the Israeli football team, would think about this statement; or the Sports in Service of Peace programme which enables Israeli and Palestinian children to play together to promote coexistence, and who participated in the Argentina-Uruguay match. While Israel may not be renowned as a sporting powerhouse, on a human level, sport is clearly an invaluable tool for promoting cooperation between peoples.
According to the article, even Israelis engaging in sport is considered illegitimate. So we, Israelis, cannot do anything. Even our contributions to the international community are deemed illegitimate. Pinkwashing, greenwashing, vaccinewashing – even a peace agreement with Arab countries receives similar accusations. This is particularly dangerous, implying that Israel is not a state like any other, whose contribution to the world can be celebrated. This week marks the greatest catastrophe to the Jewish people, and it is 73 years since the UN recognised the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in Israel. Israel can be criticised, even harshly, but it is about time it was treated the same as any other country in the world.
Spokesperson, Israeli embassy
• Cycling is indeed an expression of freedom, but can also be a political tool. It is being used as sportswashing by Israel, as Jonathan Liew highlights in his excellent article, but we, in The Big Ride for Palestine, combine our love of cycling with expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people. We have been riding since 2015, when about 150 people joined the first ride from Edinburgh to London to commemorate the bombing of Gaza in 2014, when 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 551 children.
Last year, 250 people cycled from Bristol to London and raised over £100,000 for the Middle East Children’s Alliance to help build playgrounds for traumatised Palestinian children in Gaza. Our rides do not get media coverage, despite the hundreds of people who come out to support us as we cycle through their towns and villages.
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