By Thameen Kheetan

AMMAN – Jordanian organisers of a cycling tour for environmental awareness that includes Israeli and Palestinian participants on Wednesday said they would consider cancelling the event if anti-normalisation activists continue to condemn the initiative.

“It is possible, if the criticism continues, that we will cancel the event because we don’t need trouble,” a source at Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) told The Jordan Times in Amman yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The group, which is co-organising the event along with the Israel Bicycle Association, says the biking tour aims at raising awareness on climate change and environmental hazards that threaten the Jordan Valley, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.

But the issue “has been politicised”, the source said.

Professional associations and a leftist youth group have criticised the three-day event, which is slated to start in the Kingdom on October 8, saying it will “make it possible for the [Israeli] enemy to penetrate our society”.

“This campaignة is being organised while the Zionist enemy continues constructing settlements on Arab Palestinian lands, and coincides with the challenges that face our country’s security and stability,” said a statement released by the opposition-backed Move campaign, a copy of which was sent to The Jordan Times.

Badi Rafayah, president of the Professional Associations Council Anti-Normalisation Committee, believes that such events aim to “divert young people’s attention away from the Israeli threat to Jordan”.

He noted that environment awareness activities cannot be possible in cooperation with “those who cut down trees, burn crops in the Jordan Valley and extensively pump water from the Dead Sea”.

Rafayah said he believes the biking tour has “other purposes” under the cover of environment awareness. “The Zionist enemy aims to establish a relationship with Jordanian youngsters because they are leaders of the future,” he told The Jordan Times.

But according to FoEME, not all Israelis agree with cutting down trees. “Israelis who protest against the Israeli aggression are not those who burn trees,” the FoEME source said, adding that “there are peace activists inside Israel”.

“The issue was totally environmental but it ended up being politicised,” he remarked, noting that around 40 Jordanians who are scheduled to take part in the tour will stop before the borders and not meet the Israelis because it is difficult to obtain visas.

According to the FoEME website, the “torch run” is part of Global Work Day, October 10, 2010, which is organised by, an international campaign against global warming.

The website said the “torch” is two bottles of water that will be poured at the end of the tour into the Dead Sea, whose level drops by one metre each year.

In addition to evaporation, environmentalists have attributed the drop in sea levels to diversion of water from the Jordan River, which feeds the Dead Sea.

An FoEME report released in May said Israel diverts the highest amount from the river (46.47 per cent), followed by Syria (25.24 per cent), Jordan (23.24 per cent) and the Palestinian Authority (5.05 per cent).