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 Hotels.com, 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

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat