By Thameen Kheetan

AMMAN – Jordanian activists have pulled out from a cycling tour for environmental awareness that included Israeli and Palestinian participants, due to local opposition, organisers said Tuesday.

Neither Jordanians nor Palestinians will take part in the activity, which drew harsh criticism from local professional associations and a youth group, who said it was an “attempt to normalise relations between Jordanian youngsters and the Zionist enemy”.

The Amman office of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) said yesterday it had withdrawn from the “torch run”, because the issue was “politicised” and diverted away from its original goal: Raising awareness of environmental hazards in the Jordan Valley.

“The focus was shifted from being environmental into political, and this wasn’t our aim from the very beginning,” FoEME Jordan office Deputy Director Abdel Rahman Sultan told The Jordan Times yesterday.

But for Badi Rafayah, president of the Professional Associations Council Anti-Normalisation Committee, the issue “is political, because we must not hold events with the enemy whatever the reason”.

He charged that the Jordanian participation was cancelled because not enough youngsters registered for the tour, but the organisers previously said around 40 people from the Kingdom were expected to join.

“This indicates the failure of all activities that are held with the Israeli enemy,” Rafayah told The Jordan Times.

The left-wing Move campaign, which promotes the boycott of Israeli and American products, lauded the decision to pull out. In a statement released yesterday, the group called for pressuring the government to “put an end to its relationship” with Israel.

Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994, but the Kingdom’s professional associations and several political parties oppose the agreement.

The head of the FoEME office in the Palestinian territories denied having planned to take part in the biking tour.

“It was just a suggestionة we hadn’t any intention to take part in this activity,” Nader Khateb told The Jordan Times over the phone from Bethlehem.

The initiative, which is coorganised by FoEME and the Israel Bicycle Association, is part of Global Work Day, October 10, 2010, organised by, an international campaign against global warming.

The website now says the 15-kilometre ride “will take place in Israel on October 9”.

Organisers said the “torch” of the tour is two bottles of water, which participants will pour into the Dead Sea, whose level drops by one metre annually.

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.

A 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).

6 October 201