Female cyclist uninvited to Women's Day event due to previous Israeli military service


A famed female cyclist has had her invitation to speak at an international women’s event rescinded due to her service in the Israeli military.

Leah Goldstein was invited to the March 8 event in August by INSPIRE but was told last month she would no longer be welcome, according to The Times of Israel.

Goldstein served in the Israeli military over 30 years ago, which a “small but growing and extremely vocal group” took issue with, leading to the cancellation.

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Israel flag

A Georgia middle school teacher was arrested after allegedly threatening to cut off the head of a Muslim student who confronted him about an Israeli flag in his classroom. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“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 empowerment group said in a statement. “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.”

The revoked invite comes during the war between Israel and Hamas. INSPIRE said it was pressed by Goldstein’s critics to get her feelings on the war, but Goldstein thought it was “ridiculous” she’d have to provide such thoughts to the group.

Goldstein says her speech would have steered away from politics.

“I am zero political when I speak,” she 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.”

Israelis, explosion

A bicycle was targeted and two young Palestinian militants were killed near the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel Oct. 7, 2023, in Gaza. (Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Martina Rosenberg, the Anti-Defamation League’s senior vice president of international affairs, says Goldstein’s rescinded invite is “hurtful” and unethical.

“We’re seeing more and more instances of Israeli speakers being disinvited simply because of their nationality or IDF service,” 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 was born in Vancouver but lived in Israel as a child, and she had Israeli citizenship due to her parents being from there.

Explosion, plume of smoke

Smoke rises after an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel Jan.18, 2024.  (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

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She was the first woman to win a 3,000-mile race in the United States.

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