28 April 2016

Occupation vacations: Settlement tourism in Israel

Middle East Eye

For years, the Tel Aviv-based Shurat HaDin - also known as the Israel Law Centre - has organised tours to Israel while continuing its day-to-day activities of “fighting terrorism and safeguarding Jewish rights worldwide”.
Billed as the “Ultimate Mission to Israel,” the weeklong excursion packages offer five-star accommodation, luxury bus transportation, and a cell phone for each participant. The cost: a mere $3,150 (not including airfare), plus an obligatory donation of between $600 and $5,000 per person.
The itinerary, which promises a “dynamic and intensive… exploration of Israel’s struggle for survival and security in the Middle East,” includes the following items: “briefings by Mossad officials and commanders of the Shin Bet”; “a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court”; “tours of the Lebanese & Syrian front-line military positions and the Gaza border checkpoints”; a “meeting [with] Israel’s Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence”; and a tour of “the controversial Security Fence and IDF military bases.”
Of course, such an ultimate mission as this may not cater to the needs of every traveller. For those tourists who might prefer a focus on wine, artisanal cheese and extremist West Bank settlers, there are also plenty of vacation options.
A recent Washington Post article titled “Tourism is the new front in Israeli settlers’ battle for legitimacy” describes how settlements are deploying “zealous hospitality” as a means of fighting back against international criticism of their illegal status. A proliferation of boutique wineries and bed and breakfasts has accompanied the growth of settlement tourism; the article explains: “In this campaign, wine tastings are a new weapon against a two-state solution. Holiday chalets are new facts on the ground.”
Unfortunately, Palestinians are lacking in similar opportunities to forge their own very profitable facts on the ground - as there’s not really a market these days for holidays in which, for example, your kids are massacred by Israeli missile while playing football on the beach. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.