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Bid to ban Israel from Olympics litters highways

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Johannesburg drivers have been confronted by multiple billboards calling for Israel to be banned from the Paris Olympic Games, which begins on 26 July this year. The anonymous boards have appeared in at least three places on the M1 and N3 highways, and possibly other locations. At least one has already been taken down.

The boards form part of a global campaign to kick Israel out of international sport, attempting to mimic the successful sporting bans on apartheid South Africa that started in the 1960s.

The SA Jewish Report spoke to an outdoor advertising expert, who asked not to be named for his own safety. He confirmed that the billboard sites belong to a Rosebank-based company called Black Media Outdoor. Established in 2014, it owns 63 outdoor sites. Its founder and chief executive is Yaeesh Sidat. The expert said Black Media Outdoor wasn’t obligated to reveal client details, and alleged that the company may have run these adverts for free. He also said some of its outdoor sites could potentially be illegal unless they received approval from the City of Johannesburg’s development planning department. The city has announced a crackdown on non-registered sites, but wasn’t able to confirm whether these particular boards were legal or not.

The expert also said complaints against “controversial opinion” falls out of the advertising regulator’s jurisdiction, and should be directed at the South African Human Rights Commission.

This isn’t the first time that outdoor media have been used to push the anti-Israel cause around Johannesburg. For years, billboards have been erected to castigate or demonise Israel, often to be countered by pro-Israel boards in the same vicinity.

Black Media Outdoor proudly displays a billboard on its website linking Nelson Mandela to Iran for Al Quds Day, and includes the logo of the virulently anti-Israel Africa4Palestine group, among others. It ran on the R21 highway near Olifantsfontein, and on the R21 in Jet Park. The company’s website lists the R21 highway at Emperor’s Palace having a monthly rate of R65 000, with R9 720 for printing and R5 670 for “flighting”. So three sites would have been worth a minimum of R240 000 per month.

And in February 2024, the SA Jewish Report ran a story about a billboard in Mayfair with the slogan “Israeled (verb) – taking something that isn’t yours, and then shamelessly pretending it belongs to you while playing the victim.”

The Olympic-ban boards feature a red triangle, which has become a symbol of Palestinian resistance to Israel. The design also has the five interlocking ring Olympic logo, with the red circle enclosing an Israeli flag with a red diagonal stripe over it. When contacted about whether this was copyright infringement and defacing the Olympic logo, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee’s Jessica Choga said, “Unfortunately, it’s not within our place to comment on this matter as it falls under the jurisdiction of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).”

South African Zionist Federation Chairperson Rowan Polovin said, “We find this message misguided, offensive, and contrary to the principles of international sport and the Olympic spirit. Israel is a democratic nation with the inherent right to participate in global events like any other country in the community of nations. The Olympics were founded on the ideals of unity, friendship, and peaceful competition among nations. Singling out and excluding Israel undermines these very principles, and serves only to further divide rather than foster understanding. We also believe that this anti-Israel sentiment isn’t representative of the views held by the majority of South Africans.”

On 20 February 2024, an article appeared on the international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions coalition) website, titled “No Olympics as usual. Join the campaign to #BanIsrael”. It claimed that “more than 300 Palestinian sports teams are calling to ban Israel from the Olympics over its genocide against Palestinians in Gaza”. It’s a call to action for people around the world to put pressure on the IOC and its local sports bodies “to peacefully disrupt the road to Paris 2024”.

Among the actions recommended by BDS are: protests at Olympic offices and national and international sports federations; disruptions and awareness-raising at Olympic qualifiers and events; and holding accountable governments that have signed the International Convention against Apartheid in Sports to get Israel expelled from sporting bodies and events. It also has a petition to ban Israel from international sport linked to social media campaigns.

Also in February 2024, 26 left-wing French parliamentarians called for Israeli athletes to be treated like those from Belarus and Russia, who must compete without their flag, anthem, and national colours, due to the war on Ukraine.

The campaign appears to have had little traction so far. In March 2024, IOC President Thomas Bach made it clear that there was no issue with Israel’s participating at the 2024 Summer Olympics, and cautioned athletes against boycotts and discrimination.

Pierre-Olivier Beckers-Vieujant, the head of the IOC’s Paris 2024 Coordination Committee told AFP, “The reasons that led the IOC to sanction first Russia and then the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) are very specific. Russia and more recently the ROC have undermined essential parts of the Olympic Charter. That’s not the case with the Palestinian Olympic Committee or the Israeli Olympic Committee.”

Israel plans to send 60 athletes to Paris in 11 sporting disciplines. Yael Arad, the president of the Olympic Committee of Israel, has stated that Israeli athletes would “100%” be present, with requisite safety measures in place.

Sport is seen as an easy target for Israel haters. This campaign follows an Israeli rugby team having its invitation to play in a South African competition rescinded; and Jewish teenager David Teeger being stripped of the captaincy of the U19 cricket team for publicly supporting the Israel Defense Forces. How all of this helps the Palestinians is unclear.

The SA Jewish Report put 10 questions to Sidat, but received no reply by the time of going to press.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gary

    May 16, 2024 at 12:18 pm

    We will never surrender to the Amalekite Axis of Islamic-Marxist evil! Am Yisrael Chai!

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