Kicking up dust on the back roads of northern Gaza within sight of the Israeli fence that seals off the enclave, Olympic athlete Nader Al Masri is still training, despite being barred from competing in his people's largest sporting event.Ah, having a consistent policy in who can enter your country is now considered "cold rejection."
Masri, who has participated in 40 international contests including the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, was denied a permit by Israeli authorities to travel to the occupied West Bank for the Palestine Marathon on Friday.
"I'm sad. This is a race for all Palestine and I wanted to participate, but unfortunately the Israeli side coldly rejected me," said the 34-year-old policeman.
The New York Times - in a front page story - gives a slightly more accurate account:
In denying Mr. Masri’s permit request — made through Gisha, an Israeli group advocating free movement — the Israeli government said in a March 30 letter that “the present diplomatic/security situation” meant that Gaza residents could cross into Israel only “in exceptional humanitarian cases.”
One of the organizers of the marathon disingenuously claims to the New York Times that the event is not political:
“It illustrates the whole concept,” said Lise Ring, one of the two Danish women who founded the Palestine Marathon, which is expected to draw 3,000 runners this year, half from the West Bank. “We want people from around the world to see a Palestine that’s not about the conflict,” she said. “But it’s hard to say ‘Palestine’ without talking politics.”
This is of course a lie.
The entire purpose of the marathon is meant to be a political weapon against Israel.
The very course of the marathon was chosen for political reasons - going past two refugee camps and the separation barrier with a turnaround at an Israeli military checkpoint.
Here is how the event is described in the "Right to Movement Palestine Marathon" site:
Running is a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. Having the right to move means that you have the choice, possibility, and right to move from A to B at any time and for any reason. The right to movement is a basic human right as stipulated in Article 13 of the UN Human Rights Charter: "Everyone has the right to freedom of movement"The website doesn't quote the entire sentence in the UDHR, which says "Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state." If the PLO would have seriously negotiated a peace plan instead of using the pretence of talks to get the US to force Israel to make unilateral concessions, they would have had a state by now with no restrictions on movement.
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement, but not everyone has the option. Restriction on movement is one of the major challenges for the Palestinian people living under occupation. Palestinians cannot move freely on roads, or from one city to another. The Palestinians right to move is controlled by their ID, permits, which city they live in, or who they are married to. The environment that Palestinians were supposed to move freely in is occupied and thus controlled by a foreign army. An army that controls their movement with roadblocks, checkpoints, military zones, an illegal wall and a complex set of discriminatory laws. Ever been through Qalandia? Then you know why we do this! The EU and the US talks about a two-state solution, an independent Palestine, but we cannot even find the 42 KMs needed for a marathon. This is why we do it.
But that nuance is lost on mainstream media reporters.
Also lost is the difference between Israel not allowing Gazans to enter its territory and "Israel barring Gaza runners from competing." Could, perhaps, Nader al Masri get to Bethlehem by going through Egypt and Jordan? If he did, would Israel "bar" him from the race? Is adhering to a policy that applies to everyone equally the same as a "bar" on a runner?
Speaking of Egypt, there was a marathon in Luxor, Egypt in January and a half-marathon in Cairo in February. Did al-Masri apply to run in those marathons? I don't know, but if he did I must have missed the stories about how Egypt "blocked" him by not allowing him to enter the country.
Those Egyptian marathons weren't political, so no one bothered to call the lazy media to hand-feed them a story tailor made for the front page.