Amnesty International’s Campaign against Tourism to Israel

Last week, the human-rights organization Amnesty International, which has a long track-record of obsessive hatred of the Jewish state, released a report accusing Israel of encouraging tourism in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank as part of a “political and ideological” scheme to tighten its grip on these areas. Therefore, the report claims, businesses that facilitate travel to Israel, such as Airbnb and, are abetting “human-rights violations.” NGO Monitor, a group that responds to efforts by non-governmental organizations to libel Israel, notes that the report is a poorly sourced and poorly reasoned effort to prove that tourism to the Dead Sea or to sites of great significance to the history of Judaism and Christianity results from a nefarious Jewish plot:

[T]his publication, and the broader campaign [of which it is a part], is designed to bolster the expected UN boycott-divest-and-sanction (BDS) blacklist. Amnesty denies Jewish connections to historical sites—including in the Old City of Jerusalem—and in essence faults Israel for preserving the Jewish historical and cultural heritage, as well as places that are holy to Christians.

[The report] repeatedly diminishes Jewish connections to holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem and in other areas of religious and historical importance to Jews. It accuses Israel of creating a “settlement tourism industry” to help “sustain and expand” communities beyond the 1949 armistice line. Israel’s interest in Jewish archaeology is “to make the link between the modern state of Israel and its Jewish history explicit,” while “rewriting history, [with] the effect of minimizing the Palestinian people’s own historic links to the region.” . . .

The possibility that Jews would visit holy sites and want to see archaeological remnants of biblical locations for their religious and historical significance is not entertained. . . . Indeed, it is unclear how a Jewish individual visiting the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem would somehow be guilty of [human-rights] violations, or how a tourism website advertising this would also somehow be complicit.

Amnesty [also] notes that “the top-three most visited places by foreign tourists [in Israel] in 2017 were all in Jerusalem’s Old City,” implying that this is a serious problem that needs to be solved. Only in a footnote do we learn that these are “the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.” . . . By suggesting that foreign tourism to Israel is about supporting settlements, not about religious and/or historical interest, Amnesty International [implicitly denies both the Jewish and] the Christian connection to the Holy Land.

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Read more at NGO Monitor

More about: Amnesty International, BDS, Israel & Zionism, West Bank

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians