Giro d'Italia removes reference to 'West Jerusalem' following Israeli protest

RCS Sport has removed references to 'West Jerusalem' from its official maps and route information for the 2018 Giro d'Italia after the Israeli government threatened to withdraw its support for next year's Grande Partenza in protest.

The 2018 Giro gets underway on May 4 with a 9.7-kilometre time trial that takes part in the western sector of Jerusalem. When details of the three opening stages were unveiled in Israel in September, RCS Sport's maps referred to the city simply as 'Jerusalem,' but the maps released during the presentation of the full Giro route on Wednesday listed the stage town as 'West Jerusalem.'

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since seizing it during the Six-Day War in 1967. The country later annexed it, although the international community has never recognised that administrative move. Israel now claims Jerusalem as its undivided capital, but Palestinians believe East Jerusalem has been occupied illegally and hope to establish it as the capital of their future state. 

In a strongly-worded statement to AFP shortly after Wednesday's Giro presentation, Israel's sports minister Miri Regev and tourism minister Yariy Levin claimed that RCS Sport's use of the term West Jerusalem was "a breach of the agreements with the Israeli government" and described Jerusalem as "Israel's capital [where] there is no east or west."

"If the wording does not change, the Israeli government will not be a partner in the event," Regev and Levin concluded.

In a brief statement on Thursday morning, RCS Sport confirmed that it had removed references to West Jerusalem from its technical material relating to the 2018 Giro. The race website now lists the stage location as Jerusalem and not West Jerusalem.

"RCS Sport would like to clarify that the start of the Giro d'Italia 2018 will take place from the city of Jerusalem," reads the statement.

"During the Presentation of the 2018 race course, technical material containing the wording 'West Jerusalem' was used, due to the fact that the race will take place logistically in that area of the city. That particular wording, devoid of any political value, has been removed from any material related to the Giro d'Italia."

The Giro's decision to start from Israel has already faced criticism from human rights groups. Last week, the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) called for a boycott of the Giro, citing "grave and escalating violations of international law and Palestinians' human rights."

The group published an open letter which included criticism of the promotional materials RCS Sport had published following September's announcement of the Israeli Big Start, stating the "Giro d'Italia deceptively portrays occupied East Jerusalem as part of Israel and as its unified capital. No country in the world recognises any part of Jerusalem as Israel's capital."

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