Jordanian Baja car rally concludes amid anger over Israeli racers

Jordanian Baja car rally concludes amid anger over Israeli racers
The two-day international car race was marred by controversy over the participation of Israeli contestants, sparking uproar on social media in Jordan.
2 min read
21 February, 2022
The rally launched in Ayla Oasis, a luxury resort in the southern city of Aqaba located by the border next to the Israeli coastal city of Eilat. [Phil Inglis/Getty]

The 2022 Jordan Baja rally, an international car racing event, concluded as planned on Saturday despite numerous calls for boycotts and the withdrawal of several sponsors.

The two-day race was officially launched on Thursday in Ayla Oasis, a luxury resort located in the Red Sea city of Aqaba, but immediately sparked uproar in Jordan due to the participation of 13 Israeli contestants.

"We were surprised to learn only one day before about the fact that there were local sponsors to this event and the nationalities of those who were participating," Mohammad Al-Issa, the coordinator of the Itharak (Move) campaign, calling for a boycott of the event, told The Media Line.  

"We think that the issue was under wraps on purpose because they know very well that there is strong public opposition to any normalization with the enemy," Al-Issa added. 

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The Arabic hashtag #Cancel_Baja_Rally gained traction on Twitter over the week and topped the list of trending hashtags in Jordan on Saturday, the last day of the race, as many called on sponsors and authorities to boycott the Israeli contestants.

Several Jordanian sponsors withdrew their support from the race after learning that Israeli teams were participating. Roya TV, one of the country's biggest TV channels, stressed its "refusal to normalize or participate in sponsoring any events that include contestants from the Israeli Occupation which continues to abuse our people in occupied Palestine".

Hamadeh, a prominent Jordanian hummus brand, also withdrew its sponsorship and Jordan's Union of Engineers called on other brands to follow suit.

The event drew participants from 20 countries around the world, including many sports car-racing celebrities. 

Israel has normalised ties with four Arab states since 2020 in the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by the administration of former US president Donald Trump.

Israel recently signed new cooperation agreements on water and energy with Jordan. However, many Jordanians categorically reject such agreements.

More than of the Jordanian population have Palestinian origins and consider Israel as an occupying power of their ancestral lands.

The boycott of the Jordan Baja Rally coincided with another campaign directed against the movie "Death on the Nile", based on Agatha Christie’s book which stars the Israeli actress Gal Gadot. Jordanians have called on authorities to ban the film in cinemas.