I recently came across two accounts of American tourists in Palestine – the first one filled me with despair; the second one with hope. See what affect they have on you.
The first was an account of a “mission” to Israel by Americans For A Safe Israel (AFSI) (do watch the embedded video). I should explain that AFSI’s definition of ‘Israel’ includes the territory which the international community recognises as Palestine. AFSI members enjoy a conducted tour of Israeli settlements in Palestine (which are illegal under international law). They take a particular joy in visiting settlements which even the Israeli government views as illegal. As an example of using tourism to reinforce prejudice, it’s hard to beat – “… our feeling of love and support and strength for the land of Israel just grows with every trip that we take. Two-thirds of the people who travel with me are people who have been with me before. They come again and again because we form very close ties with the people.” The highlight of the tour is when “AFSI members will get some hands-on training in rifle practice under the tutelage of the Mishmeret Yesha rapid response team.” Possibly a case of people who slay together, stay together?
The second tells the story of a visit by another group of American Jews, but this time the group was keen to hear both sides of the story. As the report relates, this took them to some unusual destinations: “perhaps what was most impressive about the trip was the group’s shocking request to have home stays at a Palestinian refugee camp. For two nights, nineteen Jews stayed in four Palestinian homes in Deheisheh Refugee Camp.” The result was amazing: “The fact that these were Jews and Muslims in a place torn by nationality, religion and conflict did not stop them from overcoming stereotypes and becoming friends. They looked beyond religion and nationality and connected on the basic level of human relations.”
It appears that travel can indeed broaden the mind, but it can also reinforce existing prejudices. You pays your money…