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Champion cyclist removed from Women’s Day event over IDF service

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Leah Goldstein, a champion cyclist, was disinvited from an event due to her past IDF service, prompting her to say she’d reenlist if needed.

She refused to make a political statement and emphasized her focus on inspiring and motivating, not politics.

“They wanted me to make a statement, too. I mean, what kind of statement were they expecting from me? The only statement I would make is that I was very proud to serve and if Israel needed a 55-year-old right now, I’d jump on a plane tomorrow,” Goldstein said. “There, that’s the statement they’d get from me.”

“Seriously, do we really need to bring politics into this? … It’s insane. I’d run for president or for prime minister, whatever. I’m not into politics. I don’t want anything to do with it. I keep away from it. It’s what divides us. And it has nothing to do with who I am or what I represent or what I speak about. So, what the hell are they bringing this in? They’re just using the IDF as an excuse.”

Inspire cited the Israel-Hamas conflict for the change. Critics pressed Goldstein for her views on the war, which she found unnecessary.

“Our focus at INSPIRE has been and will always be to create safe spaces to honor, share and celebrate the remarkable stories of women and nonbinary individuals,” the women’s group stated. “In recognition of the current situation and the sensitivity of the conflict in the Middle East, the board of INSPIRE will be changing our keynote speaker.”

“I am zero political when I speak,” Goldstein said. “Honestly, there is nothing political about my presentation. I just talk about the crap that I went through and the crap that most women go through, and they still do, and how I handled it.”

“I didn’t want to go down that path because that’s not what I do. They didn’t hire me because I was an IDF soldier. They hired me because I inspire. I motivate. They’re making this political when it shouldn’t be. My presentation isn’t about the war. It’s about life.”

The Anti-Defamation League criticized the disinvitation as hurtful and against free speech.

“We’re seeing more and more instances of Israeli speakers being disinvited simply because of their nationality or IDF service,” senior vice president of international affairs Martina Rosenberg said. “Let’s be clear: Boycotting Israeli speakers is hurtful, antithetical to free speech and ultimately counterproductive. It fails to recognize the complexities of the situation.”

Goldstein, the first woman to win the Race Across America solo division, completed the race in just over 11 days.

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