Activists in Japan are calling on Honda to pull its sponsorship of a motorcycle meetup in an Israeli settlement scheduled for later this month.
Palestinians are warning Honda it could face boycott calls.
The Japanese motor giant is seemingly bucking the trend of global brands staying away from the toxic association with Israel’s colonies that are illegal under international law.
On 23-24 February Honda Israel is teaming up with Israel’s sports ministry to sponsor a Moto GP showcase at the Petzael settlement race track in the occupied West Bank.
“Motorcycle enthusiasts in Israel will be able to participate in a master class and ride together with Roberts at the Petzael track which will be transformed into a Moto GP venue with an international atmosphere,” Honda Israel’s website boasts.
“By putting its name to an Israeli government-sponsored motor race in the occupied West Bank, Honda is complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and human rights,” Jamal Juma’, a member of the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), told The Electronic Intifada.
“Israel has implemented one of the most stark examples of apartheid in the Jordan Valley, where the race will take place.”
“This race is being used by Israel to legitimize its military occupation and it’s yet another example of how Israel uses sports to whitewash its crimes,” Juma’ said.
“We call on Honda to end its sponsorship and association with this Israeli settler race in the occupied West Bank or face international boycotts.”
LCR Honda, a motorcycle team that competes in the Moto GP World Championship, is also billed as a participant in the Petzael event, along with APEX Motorsport Agency, which represents Roberts.
Moto GP – motorcycle grand prix racing – is governed by the international federation FIM.
Another sponsor of the Petzael event is the Israel Motor Sports Federation.
Forcing Palestinians out
The Petzael race track was recently completed just north of the Petzael settlement in the northern Jordan Valley.
The BNC’s Juma’ noted that “communities there live under constant threat of forced displacement and are denied access to land and water while next door Israeli settlements continue to flourish.”
As +972 Magazine reported a year ago, the track was being built “partially inside an IDF [Israeli army] live firing zone in the occupied West Bank – a designation Israeli military authorities often use to displace local Palestinian populations.”
This video posted on YouTube in June 2017 appears to show that the track has been completed:
Also in the same “live firing zone” as the track, +972 Magazine noted, is the Palestinian village of Khirbet Tana, which Israeli occupation forces have demolished repeatedly in recent years.
Following a March 2016 demolition of dozens of structures, which left almost 90 of the village’s residents without shelter, UN humanitarian coordinator Robert Piper said, “It’s hard to see how demolitions like the ones in Khirbet Tana are about anything other than pushing vulnerable Palestinians out of certain parts of the West Bank.”
While Israel habitually uses sports and cultural events to whitewash its ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies, it is difficult to see what Honda has to gain from getting involved in such a scheme.
It is possible that Honda Israel decided to back the settlement event without the knowledge or approval of the parent company, but that would not mitigate Honda’s responsibility.
Notably, Honda’s Israeli distributor is Mayer Cars and Trucks. According to the research group Who Profits, Mayer is already involved in Israel’s military occupation and colonization of the West Bank by operating transport services to settlements. It also runs two Volvo-licensed garages in the occupied West Bank.
Honda has not responded to requests for comment from The Electronic Intifada.
While the UN and world governments – including Japan – have always considered Israel’s settlements illegal, they have done nothing about them.
But thanks to grassroots pressure in Palestine and around the world the tide has started to turn.
There is increasingly a recognition that corporations as well as governments have a responsibility not to aid Israel’s occupation and colonization, and that their businesses can pay a price for doing so.
In the face of sustained campaigns over their complicity in Israel’s occupation, major international brands including Veolia, Orange and G4S have pulled out, or announced plans to end business with Israel.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is currently investigating hundreds more Israeli and international firms involved in the illegal settlements.
In a recent report, the UN stated, “businesses play a key role in facilitating the overall settlement enterprise, contributing to Israel’s confiscation of land and the transfer of its population through commercial development.”
The UN said it is investigating three Japanese firms for involvement in the settlements, though it did not name them.
Human Rights Watch has called on businesses to end all activities in or with Israeli settlements.
A coalition of eight peace and human rights groups in Japan has written to Honda, urging the company to pull out of the Petzael event.
The activists advocate that the company cut its ties to Mayer Cars and Trucks and meet with them to discuss ending Honda’s role in Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land.