Sicilians protest Giro d’Italia “stained with blood” of Palestinians

A protest by 200 activists delayed the start of the fourth stage of the Giro d’Italia in the Sicilian city of Catania on Tuesday.

The activists had planned to shut the prestigious cycling race down altogether to protest how it had been launched in Israel last week, but they were confronted and kettled by riot police, as the video above shows.

As members of the Israeli government-backed Israeli team went past, protesters threw out flyers and carried banners with slogans including, “Israel kills, Italy is an accomplice.”

“We made everyone hear our dissent against the exploitation of sport by a state that has for decades practiced apartheid against the Palestinians and which does not respect UN resolutions regarding occupied territories,” protest organizers said, according to an early version of a report from the newspaper La Sicilia.

“There were moments of tension with police,” who used their batons against demonstrators, the newspaper reported.

“Stained with blood”

One activist, Simone di Stefano, told Catania Today that activists had gathered to send the message that “we don’t want this Giro d’Italia that is stained with blood of the Palestinian people.”

Last week, Renzo Ulivieri, the head of the Italian football managers association, posted on Facebook that he would not be watching the Giro this year.

“I could have remained indifferent, but I fear I would have been despised by the people I respect,” Ulivieri wrote. “Viva the Palestinian people, free in their land.”

At a recent meeting of the leftist movement Potere al Popolo (power to the people), Ulivieri elaborated that “the true sporting spirit calls for the unity of people and condemns discrimination and abusive occupation like Israel’s apartheid.”

The latest actions are part of a continuing campaign by Palestinians and their supporters against Israel’s use of the Giro d’Italia to glamorize itself and distract attention from its abuses.

The human rights group Al-Haq noted that 4 May, the day the race started in Jerusalem, coincided with the sixth Friday of protests as part of the Great March of Return in Gaza.

On that day, Israeli occupation forces “injured 195 Palestinian protesters, paramedics, medical staff and journalists, in a demonstration of excessive use of force, including lethal force, against protected civilians,” according to Al-Haq.

Since the protests began, Israeli snipers with shoot-to-kill-and-maim orders have killed 50 Palestinians in Gaza, including 40 unarmed protesters, and have injured thousands more.

Gaza cyclist disabled by Israeli snipers

A particularly pernicious aspect of the Israeli policy – especially in the context of the Giro d’Italia’s purported celebration of athleticism – is “Israel’s deliberate ‘shoot-to-disable’ practice, targeting protected persons in the Gaza Strip with intention to maim and at times permanently disable Palestinians by targeting specific body parts, including the lower limbs,” Al-Haq stated.

“One of the injured protesters who required amputation is Alaa al-Dali, 21, a Palestinian cyclist who was shot by an Israeli sniper with a live bullet under his right knee on 30 March 2018, while he was standing some 200 metres away from the fence,” the human rights group stated.

Al-Dali was training for the 2018 Asian Games for months before he was shot.

“I knew the moment I was shot and fell to the ground, I knew that I would never be able to ride a bicycle again in my life,” he told Middle East Eye.

Al-Haq noted that in the months leading up to the Giro’s kickoff, the first time the race has started outside Europe, “Israel continued to unlawfully alter the status of Jerusalem, introducing legislation to alter the demography of Jerusalem, by targeting Palestinian residency rights and introducing bills to unlawfully incorporate settlement blocs into Israel’s Jerusalem municipality.”

“Giro d’Italia’s choice of location, along with its partners, sponsors and participating teams and individuals, is an indication of its support for Israel’s occupation and violations against Palestinians, including in East Jerusalem,” Al-Haq stated.

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What great news to see, and hear, the Sicilians protest against Giro d'Italia on their island.
This is indicative of the Italian people's support for Palestinians. Bravissimo al popolo Siciliano".

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What geographical, cultural or historical connection links the Giro Ditalia and Israel? Answer: none. So we're entitled to ask, how was the decision made to begin a famously Italian bicycle race in Israel?

From a broader perspective, we're seeing the re-enactment of a self-consciously colonial affiliation. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak maintained that his country should be regarded by its international supporters as "a villa in the jungle". This metaphor, redolent of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and many other accounts of European imperialism, plays an important role in shaping western attitudes to conflict in the Middle East. In the same way, Israeli participation in European football tournaments, the Eurovision song contest, and other events otherwise restricted to actual European participants, reminds us of the true nature of the Zionist state as a western enclave implanted in the heart of a resource-rich region. Israel's identification with colonial powers and methods began long before the establishment of the state, and are reflected in myriad associations with those powers, their attitudes and institutions. Beginning from a racist premise, Israel has always sought to establish itself as a presence apart from its neighbours, in partnership with European, latterly American power. The anachronistic strangeness of the country, one which cannot demonstrate an organic sense of belonging in the region except through mystical sources, seems to drive them to seek out affairs such as the Giro Ditalia where they can perform their colonial whiteness and reaffirm their absolute difference from the people they bomb, shoot, starve and dispossess, the despised (which is to say, feared) Palestinian Arabs.

At some point in the not too distant future, I expect Israel to apply for membership in the European Union, and to receive a favourable response from that body.

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