The soft power objective of Israeli sport is for us to focus on a cycling team or a visit by Lionel Messi rather than Palestine
In the summer of 2020 a group of five cyclists from Ramallah were out on a ride when they were stopped by a group of Israeli settlers. According to Reuters, on discovering the cyclists were Palestinian, the settlers began hurling stones at them. Four escaped into a nearby field. One, Samer Kurdi, lost his footing and was repeatedly beaten with a metal rod, suffering serious injuries. It is not known if any arrests were made.
For Chris Froome and his colleagues on the Israel Start-Up Nation pro cycling team, the roads of the occupied West Bank were a far safer place last November, as they rolled through the Judaean Hills on an open training ride. English-language media were flown out to Israel and given full access to the team during their first camp in Israel since 2019. The team and their followers were treated to luxury hospitality, taken on beach visits and kayaking excursions. But then Israel Start-Up Nation – the fledgling team relaunched last week as Israel-Premier Tech – has always known the value of good PR.