Israel protests marathon body's exclusion of West Bank race

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JERUSALEM (AP) Israel on Thursday said the international marathon body was injecting politics into sports by excluding an Israeli race because it passes through West Bank territory the Palestinians and most of the world considers to be occupied.

The Israel Marathon Association said the Association of International Marathons and Distances Races had displayed a "discriminatory nature" against the Bible Marathon that "will certainly result in great anger" among runners around the world.

Next month's Bible Marathon stretches from central Israel to the settlement of Shiloh, tracing a path described in the Book of Samuel. Organizers call the route the oldest recorded marathon in history.

The Greek-based organization said it had to exclude the Israeli marathon to comply with "international public law."

The Israeli association asked it to reconsider, saying that its decision was "prompted by a campaign organized by political activists" and rested on false legal premises. It also noted that the organization has long recognized the Laayoune Marathon in the disputed Western Sahara region controlled by Morocco.

"There cannot be one international law for Israel and another for everywhere else. The discriminatory action taken by AIMS is unacceptable and must be rectified immediately," said Eugene Kontorovich, an international law expert representing the Israeli association.

Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel has since annexed east Jerusalem in a move that is not recognized internationally, and it withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Some 400,000 Israelis live in settlements built in the West Bank, in addition to 200,000 Israelis in east Jerusalem.

Most of the international community considers settlements illegal and an obstacle to creating a Palestinian state. Israel disputes this, saying the West Bank is part of its ancestral homeland and the fate of the settlements must be resolved through negotiations with the Palestinians.

In its letter, the Israel Marathon Association asked for the Bible Marathon's membership in the international body to be restored. Should it not, it vowed to resist "the unjust and politicized denial of membership to the world's oldest running event in every forum available to us."

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