We, Palestinian cyclists, take pride when we see committed solidarity across the globe. On numerous occasions, cyclists and activists around the world have cycled to raise awareness of our struggle and to highlight Palestinian oppression under the Israeli regime. Due to racist Israeli policies we haven’t been allowed to return to our homes for the last 70 years, and we live under a brutal military occupation in the West Bank or under the blockade in Gaza and as second-class citizens in Israel.
Our right to mobility is so affected by checkpoints, the Wall, stolen land, settlements and by-pass roads, amongst many other challenges, that we can’t even cycle in peace.
Israel tries to wash its war crimes and apartheid policies by showing itself as a progressive and sports-friendly country. Meanwhile, there are countless times that Israel has denied Palestinian teams the ability to travel, or has injured, imprisoned or killed Palestinian athletes. The Gaza football team is made up of footballers who have been maimed after having been shot by the Israeli army. It is through participating in international leagues “as usual” and promoting sport events that Israel tries to hide its crimes against the Palestinian people.
In the corporate world we live in nowadays, it’s not just states trying to improve their image – companies also do it constantly. For example, British bank HSBC – one of the world’s largest banks – invests in companies that arm Israel. These include Caterpillar which is one of the main companies providing the Israeli military with bulldozers used to demolish houses or whole villages as forms of collective punishment or to build illegal Jewish-only settlements. These constitute war crimes according to international law.
Though HSBC recently announced it divested from Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems due to “human rights” concerns – a significant positive step which followed a year-long campaign by activists – it is clear that HSBC must now act on the rest of its complicity by cutting links with all companies implicated in the violent oppression of the Palestinian people.
We are aware that HSBC uses different marketing strategies to launder its image. In fact HSBC is the main sponsor of British Cycling in an attempt to “sportswash” its complicity in human rights abuses.
Sports organisers and the media tend to say that politics has no place in sports. But accepting sponsorship from a company that chooses to invest in companies that directly harm Palestinians is clearly political. This is why we are calling on cyclists of conscience to not accept HSBC’s sponsorship until these investments ends.
Cycle for freedom, justice and equality! Do not stand with apartheid!
Statement by Cycling Palestine