Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hopelessness as a Tourist Attraction

Last month I read an article entitled "Israeli Settlers Skew Focus to Tourism" (The Age, April 23, 2016, p. 40) by Middle East correspondent Anne- Marie O'Connor reporting from Havat Gilad, the West Bank. Even as I write this long introduction of the whos and wheres, I feel the anger, the heart break rising at its contents. It has taken me a month to believe again that words can do anything in the face of such heartlessness, with all the blows Israel strikes daily at Palestinian aspirations, with its control of revenue ("Israel Freezes Palestinian revenues," Jan 5, 2015) as punishment for Palestinian attempts to join the International Criminal Court, with its control of ocean, air ways, border crossings, knowing all of this, the cynicism of turning the settlements into tourist attractions stopped me cold.
   "They are offering a sampling of 'the good life', with fine wines and artisanal cheese on hilltops...wine tastings are a new weapon against a two-state solution...Holiday chalets are the new facts on the ground...The 1.5 million annual visitors to the West Bank now encounter 15 new multilingual visitor centers, 20 boutique wineries and some 200 bed and breakfasts (to be found on Airbnb). A settler says, 'When people come here, they experience a different side of us: nature, music, olives, lemons. The reporter says, 'But not Palestinians?'
'It just won't fit,' the settler replies. Karni Eldad, the co-author of Yesha is Fun, a guidebook about vacationing in the West Bank gives an explanation. 'The 1970s and '80s were the settlement era, when we had to build as much as we could, otherwise they would give it back to the Arabs. We had to block the Palestinians.'

Oh, and that they have. Children lie in the rubble while tourists eat cheese in the hill tops of another people's land. Never, never say this is the nation of the Jews. This is a national policy that builds villas on the bodies of the unwanted, that turns settler colonization into a quick freeze new history. And those who book their beds on Airbnb, who pile into the buses escorted by Israeli military to the mountain tops to breath in the 'new'air, how empty are both their hearts and minds. I keep seeing the crowds that laughed as the Nazis played with their Jewish victims in the streets-- this is not a Jewish state, but a despotic State that will do anything to keep its hold on power, a bankrupt state that only knows the tools of humiliation and torture when it turns its eyes to the people Israel displaced. This Jew says build me no such States but the other way of being, the way represented by the peace activists of Israel and around the world, the inclusive way that does not dance on the mountain tops of displacement and genocide, that refuses all religious claims to exceptionalism from what one human being owes another.


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