What does military occupation look like?It looks like a lot of things. In the case of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, it looks like Israeli soldiers in full riot gear using a handcuffed Palestinian as a human shield; it looks like armed incursions into Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian government; it looks like the arrest and imprisonment of children (for instance, an 8 year old arrested by Israeli soldiers while playing with his cousin).But occupation also looks like this:
Runners in the first ever Bethlehem Marathon [held on Sunday] were forced to run two laps of the same course, as Palestinians were unable to find a single stretch of free land [26.2 miles] long.
And in case you were wondering if Gaza is really still under Israeli military control, occupation also looks like this:
Around 100 competitors took part in the full 26 miles, while another 150 joined the half marathon…. Another 26 runners from Gaza were denied permission by Israel to travel to Bethlehem to join the race.
So to sum up: Military occupation looks like athletes not having enough space to run 26.2 contiguous miles or, in some cases, even being allowed to get to the truncated course in the first place.
Which is why the organizers in Right to Movement planned the marathon, actually—not just to give runners a chance to do their thing, but also to draw attention to just how difficult such a simple task really is:
Article 13 of the U.N. Human Rights Charter [states]: Everyone has the right to freedom of 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. They cannot travel freely on roads, or go from one city to another. Where they can go depends on their ID, whether they have a permit, which city they belong to, or who they are married to.
… The EU and the U.S. talk about a two-state solution, an independent Palestine—but we cannot find the 42 km [26.2 miles] needed for a marathon. Not [even] 42 kms of an area which [is] supposed to be an independent state are controlled by the Palestinians themselves. This is why we do it.
We also do it to show that the Palestinians not only are capable of having a marathon, but capable of statehood and self-determination. That Palestinian people love their land and have a lot to offer. We want to show more people, and runners, Palestine and the Palestinians. We want to contribute to tell a different story than the one of conflict and hate.
That, by the way, is what nonviolent resistance looks like.