Request made by Gaza athletes to participate in the all-Palestinian marathon in Bethlehem denied
The Right to Movement – Palestine Marathon was a unique sporting event and the first of its kind. The international marathon was conceived as a way of bringing together runners from all over the Palestinian territory and shining the spotlight on the importance of engaging in sports and the necessity of respecting the right to movement. The all-Palestinian race that was held in Bethlehem on April 21, 2013, was supposed to include runners from the Gaza Strip who were denied the opportunity to compete in the Gaza marathon. That race was cancelled a few months earlier due to Hamas’ objection to women’s participation. The 22 Gaza runners were even more disappointed when they learned Israel had responded to their request to exit Gaza in order to participate in the Bethlehem marathon with an unsubstantiated blanket refusal.
On April 14, 2013, we contacted the Gaza DCO, asking it to arrange for the exit of seven professional athletes who reside in Gaza (Hebrew), so that they could travel to Bethlehem to take part in the race. The letter was a last resort attempt made one week before the race in the hopes of facilitating the participation of a small, well-qualified delegation of athletes, after a request made by the Palestinian Olympic Committee had been rejected. In our letter, we called the DCO commander’s attention to Section 16 in the Policy on Movement of People between the State of Israel and the Gaza Strip, which allows passage for the purpose of special events held under Palestinian Authority sponsorship. Accordingly, the letter enclosed a special letter, signed by Mr. Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee. We highlighted the positive implications of sportsmanship and cultural activity and enclosed a letter from the marathon organizers, Here and Away, a Danish charity that sponsors sporting and art events. Despite the requests of these distinguished individuals and despite the fact that approval of the application would have positive ramifications, the request was denied in a letter sent by the Gaza DCO public liaison office on April 18, 2013 (Hebrew).