Eddie Izzard Misses Palestinian Marathon Following Backlash Over Tel Aviv Gig

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Eddie Izzard

The British actor and comedian, who came under fire for breaking a cultural boycott by performing in Israel, subsequently did not take part in the Palestine Marathon in the West Bank the next day.

Eddie Izzard ran into a political storm this week following a decision to visit the Middle East. 

The British actor and comedian performed a gig in Tel Aviv on Thursday and had planned to take part in a marathon in the West Bank the following day. 

However, the announcement of his plans — posted in a tweet on March 28 — prompted a fierce backlash, with Izzard accused of breaking a cultural picket line by playing in Israel while it still maintains a military occupation and supports the building of settlements on Palestinian land. 

"Performing in Tel Aviv is equivalent to performing in Sun City during the time of apartheid, and there is no balancing act that can justify violating the Palestinian boycott call," said the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel, part of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.

Reports emerged on Thursday that Izzard had been banned from the Palestine Marathon, a 21k route running through Bethlehem, several refugee camps and alongside Israel's separation wall, with the organizers having returned his registration. 

The official Twitter account of the marathon backed up the claim. 

"British comedian Eddie Izzard cannot run for freedom this Friday if he entertains in Tel Aviv on Thursday," it said. "We refuse to be used as a fig leaf to cover up Izzard's whitewashing of Israel's occupation and apartheid."

However, reps for Izzard — who in 2016 ran 27 marathons as a tribute to Nelson Mandela's 27 years in prison during South Africa's apartheid regime — denied that this was the case, asserting that he'd been given the all-clear. 

Izzard eventually didn't run. But the actor maintained that the decision to withdraw from the marathon was his alone.

"I have now performed my show in Tel Aviv but even though the Palestinian Authority are allowing me to run in the Palestine Marathon, others do not want me to run," he said in a statement.

"All I wanted to do was to try and bring a little extra focus to the Palestine Marathon and to the situation there. But if they would rather I didn't, I'm fine with that. But good luck to all the runners and I hope they run great marathons."

According to reps for the Palestine Marathon, which has been going for four years and aims to raise awareness on matters such as the restriction of movement faced by Palestinians, Friday's race attracted some 5,500 registered runners. 

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