Sponsors boycott Jordan rally over Israeli participation

A man and a woman pose in front of a large poster featuring a racing car

A recent photo posted on Instagram shows Israeli racer Yael Kadshai posing with another participant at the Jordan Baja. (Instagram)

Several companies in Jordan have withdrawn from sponsoring an annual motor rally in the country due to the participation of an Israeli team.

An Israeli team of 13 competed in the 2022 Jordan Baja this month – which is held in Jordan’s famous Wadi Rum and the Red Sea port of Aqaba.

Israeli participation sparked outrage among Jordanians for the second year in a row.

Two Israeli racers took part last year amid a curfew and national lockdown due to a COVID-19 surge.

Jordan BDS, an organization that supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, called for a nationwide boycott of the event.

“We urge all Jordanians – student groups, political parties, sports federations, trade unions and popular movements – to boycott this race, to reject it, to revoke its contract, to boycott the Israeli competitors and to withdraw Arab participants from it,” Jordan BDS stated.

Sponsors began dropping like flies.

The Jordanian TV station Roya pulled its sponsorship of the event, citing its refusal to “normalize or participate in sponsoring any events that host contestants from the occupation entity, which abuses our people in occupied Palestine.”

Rababa Games, a Jordan-based software developer, and Esquires Coffee, a cafe in Amman, both announced their withdrawals from the event, saying “no to normalization.”

Hamada, a popular Jordanian falafel chain, backed out of the event as well.

Palestinian political and resistance organization Hamas applauded the Jordanian companies’ withdrawal from the race.

Several Arab racers competed in the event, including athletes from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.

Many people took to Twitter, signaling their opposition with the hashtag “stop the baja rally.”

Israel and Jordan normalized relations with the Wadi Araba agreement in 1994, despite there being no restoration of Palestinian rights or an end to Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

But while formal diplomatic relations exist between the two countries, this has never translated into a so-called warm peace among people. Jordanians are generally reluctant to cooperate openly with Israelis.

The peace treaty is strongly opposed by the Jordanian public and members of parliament.

In the last years of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, relations between Jordan and Israel cooled.

Jordan was sidelined as Israel formalized relationships with more powerful regional players in the second half of 2020.

In spite of this, the relationship appears to be on the mend.

Last month, Jordan’s King Abdullah publicly received Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz in Amman.

Jordan’s royal court said the meeting was focused on “maintaining calm in the Palestinian territories” and creating a “horizon” for a “two-state solution.”

Israel’s statement on the meeting however made no mention of the Palestinians at all, but praised the “strong and enduring relations” between Tel Aviv and Amman.

There was yet another rare public meeting between the governor of the Jordanian port city of Aqaba and the mayor of Eilat this month, which lies just across the border in Israel.

It is rare for such meetings between Israeli and Jordanian officials to be publicized or photographed.

Last year, Jordan signed a deal with Israel and the United Arab Emirates that will supposedly see Jordan send electricity to Israel in exchange for desalinated seawater.

Jordan’s decision-makers might be moving toward stronger and more explicit ties with their Israeli counterparts in order to keep pace with their much richer Emirati competitors for Tel Aviv and Washington’s affections.

While the UAE and Israel only formalized their relationship in August 2020, they have moved to establish military, cultural, tourism and trade ties far more quickly and deeply than Jordan has.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.