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Climbing Federation Votes to Admit Palestine, Paving Way for International Competition

Though Palestine is now eligible for international climbing competitions, questions remain on what the future looks like.

a climber pulling hard on a holdPalestinian climber Urwah Askar pulling hard in 'Resistance Climbing,' part of Reel Rock 17; (photo/Reel Rock)
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According to an announcement on Tuesday, Palestine’s climbers can now compete in international climbing competitions. The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) admitted the Palestine Social Sport Climbing Club Association as an official member, making the club’s members eligible to compete.

IFSC’s executive board issued a statement confirming it voted to include the Palestinian body — along with climbing groups representing Bolivia, Guam, and Nigeria. That decision will be ratified at the IFSC General Assembly in Chile on March 22 and 23.

Palestine has a small but growing climbing community, which received international attention after the award-winning documentary Resistance Climbing debuted in the Reel Rock film festival last year. The film centered on Andrew Bisharat, a climbing journalist and Palestinian-American, who visited Palestine and heard from its climbers, who found solace by scaling nearby cliffs.

In a statement shared with GearJunkie on Tuesday, Bisharat called IFSC’s decision “a testament to the incredible work and passion of the Palestinian climbing community, which fearlessly continues to pursue its passion for climbing despite the occupation and de facto apartheid under which it exists.”

IFSC Votes to Admit Palestinian Climbers

It remained unclear on Tuesday when or how Palestine’s climbers could compete, such as in the upcoming Olympic games in Paris. The participants for the 2024 Olympic Games’ men’s and women’s competitions have yet to be finalized. Two qualifier events remain: Shanghai (May 16-19) and Budapest (June 20-23).

Israel — also a member of the IFSC — has waged an increasingly bloody war in Palestine after a terrorist attack from Hamas in October killed more than 1,000 Israelis.

Since then, Israel’s military incursion into Palestine has resulted in more than 29,000 Palestinian casualties.

Here is Bisharat’s statement in full:

I have immense respect for Hiba Shaheen, president of the Palestine Climbing Association, for her leadership and advocacy on behalf of Palestinian climbers. Of course, it’s nearly impossible for me at the moment to summon a genuine desire to celebrate this decision, as I watch the world sit back and simply just allow Israel to continue its brutal genocide and ethnic cleansing campaign against the Palestinian people.

Given the IFSC took less than a week to decide to ban Russia for transgressing international law when it invaded Ukraine, I must question why — after more than 4 months of this century’s deadliest massacre in which almost 30,000 people, mostly women and children, have been slaughtered — why the IFSC and the IOC haven’t yet taken similar actions against Israel and its partners in genocide, including the United States.

The IFSC would be wise to recall the history of how sporting organizations helped bring about the end of apartheid in South Africa through athlete boycotts. I want to celebrate the IFSC for welcoming Palestinian climbers onto the world comp climbing stage for the first time, but I would also like to use this moment to encourage the IFSC to do more by taking a strong stand against Israel’s illegal occupation and criminal genocide.

IFSC did not return requests for comment.

a climber pulling hard on a hold

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