The Israeli army’s new tourism campaign wants you to visit Palestine — just don’t call it that.
The Israeli military launched a truly bizarre rendition of a Visit Palestine tourism campaign over the weekend. Except the army couldn’t bring itself to say Palestine, the West Bank, or even mention that Palestinians live there.
The video was published on the Facebook page of the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli military government that oversees the occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The video mentions sites like Wadi Qelt, the Mar Saba Monastery and Nabi Musa, sites in the West Bank to which Israel makes no claims. Likewise, while the army’s new tourism initiative advertises the Church of the Nativity as a site in “Judea and Samaria,” the biblical name for the West Bank, there is no mention of Rachel’s Tomb, also in Bethlehem but which Israel claims as its own.
There is no mention of the Tomb of the Patriarchs/Ibrahimi Mosque in occupied Hebron, which is also in the West Bank but which Israel claims as its own. The video opens with an image of the Dead Sea, the northern half of which is in the West Bank, but it does not mention the site’s name, which might infringe on Israeli tourism dollars.
In fact, the site doesn’t mention most of the West Bank’s most prominent tourism sites, almost all of which Israel lays claim to. It doesn’t mention the Qumran caves, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, the archeological park at Susya, Herodion, Tel Shiloh, or any other site of historic or Jewish import. Those sites are run by Israel and Israelis, and the tourism fees go to Israel.
The COGAT tourism campaign, ostensibly for the West Bank, doesn’t suggest visiting Palestinian cities like Nablus, Jericho, Ramallah or Hebron, and their rich markets, heritage sites and museums. It doesn’t mention the newly opened Yasser Arafat Museum or the Palestinian Museum. It doesn’t suggest checking out the café culture and nightlife in Ramallah, nor does it suggest that there is anything Palestinian worth seeing, or anyone Palestinian worth meeting in the West Bank.
The tourism campaign certainly doesn’t mention any sites worth visiting in occupied East Jerusalem, like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall, and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The video, published by a branch of the Israeli military, truly exemplifies a body which believes it is the benevolent arm of the occupation. The campaign gives the impression that its goal is to promote the budding “Judea and Samaria” tourism economy, which it presents as distinct from the Israeli tourism economy, yet it can’t allow itself to mention the people who comprise that economy.
So visit Palestine, just don’t call it that.
COGAT had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication. It will be added here if and when it is received.