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Who actually suffers from a boycott of Jerusalem?

Last week, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa, made an unprecedented visit to Jerusalem, where he worshiped at the famous Al Aqsa Mosque. His visit drew condemnation from Muslim leaders in Egypt, and even from some Palestinians. Muslim leaders across the Middle East have long followed a policy of boycotting travel to Jerusalem, until Israel ends its occupation of the city and Palestinian land. Some have labeled those who visit Jerusalem as “normalizers” of the occupation, and sometimes even traitors.

This high-profile visit to Jerusalem was thus seen as a violation of this boycott policy, and has stirred much debate. Even the late Coptic pope, Shenouda III, forbade Christian Egyptians from traveling to Jerusalem.

The mufti’s visit comes only a few weeks after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president and chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, called upon Muslims at the recent Al-Quds Conference in Doha to visit Jerusalem. He argued that such a visit would reinforce the city’s importance to Muslims and Arabs all over the world, and show support for its residents. In his speech, Abbas argued that visiting Jerusalem is not normalization, asking, “Would visiting a prisoner constitute normalization with the prison guard?”

An American group meets with Victor Batarseh, mayor of Bethlehem (photo: MEJDI TOURS)

However, 45 years after Israel first occupied East Jerusalem, I am still unable to understand how boycotting the Palestinians in East Jerusalem is beneficial to the Palestinian people. Muslims around the world expect Palestinians in East Jerusalem to stand firm, but they leave them alone in the larger Arab context. They are expected to survive and remain steadfast, to hold onto their residency in the city, while socially and economically they consistently face increasing challenges.

The argument for boycotting Jerusalem is one of the weakest I’ve ever heard. Prophet Muhammad led Muslims after the Hudaiba reconciliation to perform the first “Umrah” – a Muslim ritual in Mecca – while under non-Muslim rule. The Ka’ba, which is the holiest Muslim site, was surrounded by idols, and yet Muslims were permitted by the prophet to worship there. So how do Muslim leaders justify boycotting Jerusalem because of the occupation? I doubt they can back their decision with a religious or historical precedent. The well-known Muslim hadith about spiritual travel says, “One should travel only for visiting three Masajid (Mosques): Masjid-ul-Haram (Mecca), Masjid-ul-Aqsa (Jerusalem), and this (my) Mosque (at Medina).”

American Imam Yusuf Salim with an interfaith group at the Dome of the Rock (photo: MEJDI TOURS)

There is also a practical consequence for the Muslim and Christian Arab boycott of Jerusalem. When western Christians and Jewish tourists visit the city to take in its significant cultural and religious attractions, they are more likely to stay in hotels in the more developed area of West Jerusalem, with better infrastructure and amenities, than to stay in East Jerusalem. They are also more likely to spend their money shopping in West Jerusalem and throughout Israel, as opposed to spreading the economic impact of their expenditures to Bethlehem, East Jerusalem or Ramallah.

The truth is that Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank need the visits from the Arab and Muslim world, not only for solidarity and support, but also for their economic impact. Tourism has always been one of the main income generators for these communities, and the boycott hurts the Palestinian economy, while Jewish and western Christian pilgrims just bolster the Israeli economy. As someone who brings hundreds of tourists to East Jerusalem annually through MEJDI enterprise, I know how valuable the tourism industry is in supporting the local Palestinian community.  In effect, not coming to Jerusalem hurts the Palestinians and makes it harder for them to remain in their native land. Those who refuse to come to Jerusalem and support the local community give a blank check for the Jewish extremists to take hold of the city.

An Arab proverb says, “Far from sight far from heart.” Muslims and Arabs around the world have little understanding of living conditions and struggles of Palestinians in Jerusalem. About half of the settlers who moved to the West Bank since 1967 are located in East Jerusalem. This proves that the Arab world has led a failed policy. Continuing this policy reflects corrupt ideology and decisions based in emotion and detached from reality. Perhaps the boycott is due to the fact that it is easier to stay away and turn a blind eye. However, if more Arabs come to Jerusalem, they might be reminded of their responsibility and be confronted with reality, rather than dreams and myths.

Palestinian guide Husam Jubran giving a tour to Americans in Bethlehem (photo: MEJDI TOURS)

This is why the controversial visit by Egypt’s Grand Mufti is important, because it challenges the widely accepted discourse, and rejects the notion that visiting Jerusalem is a “sin.” The mufti was right in saying on his Twitter account (Arabic) that this symbolic visit was meant to show support to the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, he has not been spared from criticism and many Muslim leaders in Egypt have openly criticized his visit. The political religious groups in Egypt have launched a campaign against him and his visit, and are calling for his immediate dismissal from his position.

On the one hand, I appreciate the care and attention given to Palestine, but in reality, this position is catastrophic to Palestinians here. Boycotting Palestinian cities because of the occupation is not logical anymore. Israel is not the one suffering from this boycott; it is  Palestinians who are bearing the brunt.

May I ask those calling for boycott – have such position ever been taken before? Did Muslim leaders stop visiting Iraq and Afghanistan when the U.S. Army invaded? Why not boycott countries that were or are run by dictators? How would the community react if the oppressor under scrutiny was an Arab or a Muslim? Would visiting the land of this ruler legitimize his rule? How does this policy apply to Syria, where many Muslim leaders have dined and convened, while there are massacres happening? How about Libya, where the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi has always been known to be a murderer and corrupt leader? Why is Jerusalem being singled out and blacklisted for travel during the occupation? In effect, that position weakens Palestinians and their struggle for existence. I wonder if they also think we, the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, should leave until the end of the occupation. This mindset alone will not grant us freedom.

Over the past few days, I traveled to Haifa, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem. I asked over a 100 Palestinians about their thoughts on whether or not they want Arabs and Muslims to come and visit now, or whether they should wait until the end of the occupation. The vast majority of the people I met considered the position of those who refused to come as irrational and self-righteous. It doesn’t support Palestinians, but rather contributes to political polemics and fulfills the desires of those who deny Muslim or Christian Arabs the connection to their holy land. To my Muslim and Arab brethren, I urge you to reconsider this position.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Matt

      What makes you think that anyone involved in BDS cares about what’s best for the Palestinians?

      Reply to Comment
    2. sh

      As an Israeli who boycotted the West Bank and Gaza for decades while they were still open to us, thinking that by doing so we were punishing the settlers, I can tell any readers who doubt what he’s saying that Aziz is absolutely right. While people like me’s backs were turned settlers flourished more or less unprotested. (Protesting only where the injustice is NOT happening is useless.) By the time we collected ourselves and went out there to look, settlement with its concomitant restrictions and economic damage to Palestinians were completely out of control. Don’t hold your noses, go.

      Reply to Comment
    3. AYLA

      thanks, Aziz. If we all made choices with half this depth of thought, we’d live in a different world. Let’s.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn9

      I for one also urge Muslims and Arabs to visit Israel. The women are beautiful and unburqaed, the restaurants are amazing, the hotels are really nice and there are lots of sites of historic and religious significance. I recommend the Armored Corps Museum at Latrun and of course Masada at sunset followed by a lazy day at the Dead Sea.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Kolumn9

      Sorry Aziz, the Muslims and Arabs are not coming. To most of them Palestine and Jerusalem are these mythical places where an eternal battle rages between good and evil. Half of them wouldn’t be able to find it on a map and the other half wouldn’t be bothered to look for it. As long as they expressed their hate for Israel and support for Palestinian rights they consider their religious/ethnic/cultural identity fulfilled. They are very similar in that way to American Jews, except the American Jews actually send money when asked.

      Reply to Comment
    6. SAMMAR

      KOLUMN9

      Many Muslims and Arabs would love to come to Palestine. They are prevented from doing so by the Israelis who won’t give them visas. In the case of those who are lucky to have a second passport from a country that does not require a visa to Israel, they are often turned back at the border for “security reasons” or harassed and treated with such contempt and downright hatred that they will think twice about coming to Palestine.
      Btw, that not only applies to Muslims and Arabs. Anyone who wants to help the Palestinians in some capacity, even a purely humanitarian one, is considered by Israel as an “enemy of the Jewish State”. And that includes even Jewish people who do not agree with the racist and oppressive policies of the Israeli governments against Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Kolumn9

      Sammar, yes, the airport and border crossings are just full of Arabs and Muslims trying to get through and the Israeli embassies are overrun by Muslim and Arab visa seekers. /end sarcasm
      .

      Muslims and Arabs can and do visit Israel or Palestine though in very small numbers, mostly because they simply don’t care to do so. If an Arab or Muslim is coming in as a legitimate tourist they will get into the country though they will be asked to verify their intentions to make sure they aren’t coming in to… say… blow up a bar near the American embassy in Tel Aviv. “security reasons”
      .

      Recently there has been a spike of people coming into Israel only to continue to the West Bank to participate in anti-Israeli provocations under the guise of ‘humanitarian aid’. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Israel would prefer to keep such people out. You can blame the ISM for the extra questioning.

      Reply to Comment
    8. sh

      K9 you are talking through your hat. How did Mohamed Merah pay Israel a visit undetected, pray? This after having visited Afghanistan and Pakistan? And how many more come that you have no clue about? No. What you have to do if you want to come is to say you do not intend to go to the West Bank, even if you do and to deny you are pro-Palestinian if you’re questioned. A charade disguised as security.

      Reply to Comment
    9. AYLA

      K9–that’s a seriously whacked comment, given not only what SH said, but also how many Arabs, especially muslims, want desperately to visit Jerusalem and aren’t granted visas by the Israeli government. I have personally talked to people from Bethlehem, Jordan, and Egypt who just hope to get there before they die.

      Reply to Comment
    10. “What you have to do if you want to come is to say you do not intend to go to the West Bank, even if you do and to deny you are pro-Palestinian if you’re questioned. A charade disguised as security.”
      .
      Useful methods: do an impression of an overexcited but slightly dim-witted tourist (“West Bank? Well, I’m going to Bethlehem to see the big church – is that the West Bank?”). This won’t work if you travel regularly, though. Then you need to adopt a new strategy – such as pretending to be engaged to your gay friend from Holon, who has come to meet you at the airport (and rescue you from the clutches of the security personnel). Lonely Planet should add a special section on this to the guidebook.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Mr Heisenberg

      @Kolumn9: having read some of your comments also about other articles, I think it is safe to say that you are text book example for an (internet) troll. Therefore I would reckon to the others not to feed this troll anymore…

      Reply to Comment
    12. the other joe

      I suspect you’d find most Muslims trying to get to Jerusalem have to travel via the Allenby crossing. Which would explain why @Kolumn9 has never seen them.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Miki

      @Matt – you clearly have absolutely no understanding of BDS or what is about if you think it prevents Arabs or Muslims from visiting Al Aqsa or East Jeruaslem. BDS calls for the boycott of the Israeli government, its institutes and businesses (either Israeli business or international businesses) who support or aid in the whitewashing of Israel’s apartheid and occupation policies against the Palestinian people.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Nawal Omran

      This is a boycott of Israel not Jerusalem. Why?

      – Israel bans Palestinians from entering Jerusalem. To visit Jerusalem while non-Jews are being systematically expelled from Jerusalem gives a PR cover to ethnic cleansing. We want expelled Jerusalemits to allow to return and live in their homes in Jerusalem, not just as tourists.

      – Support for Palestinians in Jerusalem starts with contributing money to Palestinians in Jerusalem facing economic hardship and who are subject to eviction from their Jerusalem homes and shops by the occupation authorities not by spending it on a 1 week vacation just for a few facebook photos.

      – Israel bans most Palestinians both Chrsitians and Muslims from worshiping Jerusalem’s holy cites. To visit Jerusalem for a few days and then leave gives Israel more hasbara power to say that Muslims and Christian holy places are open for worshipers. Again, Israel would love to bypass the Palestinians on every issue and open economic and political and cultural bridges with the rest of the Arab and Muslim worlds so long as it does not involve ending the occupation and the ethnic cleansing.

      – The core of the problem is occupation and ethnic cleansing. Visits by activists like the ISM and other human rights monitors are welcome. These are the sort of visitors Israel will ban. So what’s the points of the visits if they can’t show solidarity with Palestinians under siege in Jerusalem?

      – The main push for open travel to Jerusalem is motivated by commercial interests. The Jordanian King Abduallah II would love to turn Jerusalem into his backyard Mecca with hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Christians making pilgrimage to Jerusalem paying visa fees and airfare. It’s a cash cow. And kwning how corrupt he is, Jordanians will not see a penny from any of this. His regime even issued an edict recently outlawing travel for Jordanians of Palestinian via Tel Aviv airport under threat of rescinding their Jordanian citizenship. This is how you enforce a monopoly. Also, major tourist offices in Jordan and Palestine tied to ruling families have a vested interest in these pilgrimage. It’s all commercial with a spiritual cover story. It’s very cynical.

      – Many wealthy GCC Arabs who are interested in sex tourism would love to find a regional substitute to Turkey, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco with much of the Arab world in turmoil and the rise of conservative political parties limiting their secret vacation option. Israel would be that perfect substitute. So all they need now is the perfect cover. A Solidarity Trip to Jerusalem with the Palestinians sounds great. A quick photo opp at Al-Aqsa and Holy Sepulchre followed by a secret rendezvous in Tel Aviv’s red districts and dance clubs would be the ideal weekend vacation form someone living in the Arabian Gulf who was denied his fun time at the above mentioned countries. We know our Gulfies too well. israel would live to have them spend their millions. But they can’t do it without a spiritual cover. Now they can call it Solidarity with Jerusalem.

      – This is a veiled attempt to end the boycott of Israel on the backs of Jerusalemites. once you open the door to Arab visits to Jerusalem, you can’t compel visitors to stay in East Jerusalem. Everyone knows Israel did its utmost to undermine East Jerusalem’s infrastructure. The place is horrible. Israel even discriminates at the trash collection level. Jews get more municipal services than Arabs by an order of magnitude. That results in Jewish areas being more appealing than goyim areas. So after the photo opp in front of the mosques and churches guess where the tourists will go? Not to the depressed areas like Beit Hanina or Wadi El Jouz, but to the buzzing commercial areas of West Jerusalem.

      – What’s the point of this solidarity if it does not pressure Israel into withdrawing its armed settlers from East Jerusalem or return an expelled goyim to Jerusalem?

      – Solidarity is best offered by contributing money to Palestinian and other concerned NGOs operating in Jerusalem helping Palestinians persevere.

      – There is an order of precedence here. Gaza deserves our visits more because of the Israeli imposed siege. And because you can be assured no horny visitor 😉 will swing by Tel Aviv’s red district while there, while pretending to be in Gaza to offer his solidarity.

      – This is just a smart loophole to end Israel’s isolation under the banner of solidarity with East Jerusalem. Very cynical.

      Calls for open Arab and Muslim visitation to Jerusalem are grossly misguided–that’s if we want to be polite with choosing our words.

      – If the Palestinians were in control of East Jerusalem, I would be for it 100%. But they are not. To normalize travel to Jerusalem under Israeli occupation and in the midst of its ethic cleansing of goyim is to give legitimacy to all of this evil. Solidarity starts by applying pressure, political and financial, on Israel and by contributing money to Arabs in Jerusalem. Not by cheap photo ops and shopping in Israeli malls.

      I can list more reason why this is such a terrible thing but I have a headache. Sorry for the typos.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Tal

      How about Israeli tourists to east Jerusalem and west bank towns (Ramallah, Nablus)? Are we welcome there or is it considered to be part of the normalization of the occupation? I am curious to visit tel aviv’s twin city (Ramallah)

      Reply to Comment
    16. @Nawal Omran
      “- Israel bans Palestinians from entering Jerusalem. To visit Jerusalem while non-Jews are being systematically expelled from Jerusalem gives a PR cover to ethnic cleansing. We want expelled Jerusalemits to allow to return and live in their homes in Jerusalem, not just as tourists”

      According to your logic then even us in east Jerusalem should not remain here. I have family in the West Bank and they apply all the time for permits to come and pray at Al-Aqsa. Sometimes they get it, many times they don’t. but they are not boycotting the city. So do youl think they should stop applying for the permits or stop coming to Jerusalem? You know that every ID card in the West Bank is also issued by Israel? This whole argument is just rediculous.

      Boycotting Jerusalem is boycotting Palestine and not Israel and is a an emotional and not practicle decision.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Greg

      Aziz, Sorry but that’s a lame rebuttal. The call for boycott obviously applies to non-Palestinians. Palestinians are expected to preserve their ties to their land.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Kolumn9

      @Sh, that is exactly right. Mohammed Merah visited Israel. A French Arab Muslim came in through Ben Gurion and traveled around Israel as a tourist. I personally know Muslims that have visited from France, Turkey and from Central Asia without too much bother. So, the argument that Muslims or Arabs are prevented from entering Israel is pure nonsense.
      .

      @Ayla, @ToJ, I have no idea about the visa issues for Egyptians or Jordanians or whether most Muslims enter via the Allenby Bridge. It is true that I have never used that crossing. It is also true that there is simply no major initiative by Muslims or Arabs to visit Israel or Palestine. The boycott that Aziz is arguing against is certainly one cause of this, but another I think is that they simply care less about Palestine as a real place or the Palestinians as real people and more as ideological and rhetorical devices.
      .

      The minuscule private monetary flows towards the Palestinians are just support for such an argument. There are 1.6 BILLION Muslims in the world, including at least 60 million in the West and at least another 40 million in rich Muslim countries and another 100 million in middle income countries. I don’t know the exact private contributions to the various Palestinian organizations, but I would venture a guess that it is significantly under a $500M per year. The ‘follow the money’ conclusion is that they don’t really care. They are not coming and the boycott is a convenient excuse, nothing more.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Kolumn9

      @Nawal, by not visiting Palestine and Jerusalem you are just supporting the economic strangulation of the Palestinians. It is not possible to sustain a population on NGOs and donations alone. People need jobs and a feeling that they are being productive. NGOs can only provide food and slogans. These are not sufficient for a large population to remain in place when it is gradually being squeezed out.
      .

      As for the other nonsense that you spout.
      – There are no major private donations going to Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Additionally, Israel acts to prevent the functioning of NGOs and other Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, so this approach isn’t going to work.
      – I can give you the names of decent hotels in East Jerusalem if you are concerned about having to stay in West Jerusalem.
      – Everybody knows that for sex tourism Arabs go to Jounieh in Lebanon, which has a much more developed red light district than any such imaginary district in Tel Aviv.
      – Israel is getting record numbers of tourists, so your ‘isolation’ is imaginary.
      – Sure, some Arab and Muslim tourists will spend money in Israel as well. Let’s say they spend $50 in Israel and $50 in the West Bank. Do you have any idea how much the same amount of money helps the Palestinians than the Israelis?
      .

      The purpose of visits to Jerusalem is to ensure that Arabs actually can afford to stay in Jerusalem and that Arab businesses can operate independently of Israel. If you give the current processes 20 years there will be no Palestinian East Jerusalem, there will just be isolated residential areas where Arabs live while working for Israeli companies, cut off from each other and from the West Bank.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Kay

      Kolumn9, let’s take your nonsense one point a time:

      “by not visiting Palestine and Jerusalem you are just supporting the economic strangulation of the Palestinians.”

      The only parties strangling Palestinian economy and restricting exports and imports are the Israelis and to some extent the Jordanian king. You are shamelessly supporting Israeli blackmail tactics. Starve and brutalize the Palestinians until the rest of the world normalizes with Israel or else. That’s without even Israel ending its ethnic cleansing and occupation of non-Jews. Taking a whole nation hostage as a pressure tactic is immoral. Blaming those who want to stand up for the Palestinians is shameless. The Jordanian king and PNA’s interest in normalizing with Israel is driven solely by political and commercial interests of few powerful merchants and their families.

      “It is not possible to sustain a population on NGOs and donations alone.”

      And you think spending $1000 on airfare for the Royal Jordanian Airlines and hotels in Israel will end the occupation and the checkpoints and the wall and repatriate the refugees and free the over 10,000 Palestinian hostages? Get real.

      “People need jobs and a feeling that they are being productive.”

      And do you think by shopping in Israeli malls and frequenting Israeli brothels and staying at Israeli hotels will help Palestinian economy? I guess people like you would love to see Palestinians as menial laborers in the Israeli economy. You know as well as I do visitors won’t be coming to support Palestinian economy. Who wants to spend more than 1 hour in the filthy Arab sectors? Thanks to racist municipal Israeli policies the infrastructure in the non-Jewish areas of Jerusalem is in shambles. Those “solidarity” tourists will be coming to support the Israeli economy.

      ” NGOs can only provide food and slogans. These are not sufficient for a large population to remain in place when it is gradually being squeezed out.”

      Again, spending your money on a royal Jordanian airlines ticket, an Israeli visa, and a hotel in west Jerusalem will not help Palestinians. You speak in generalities because you know when you get to the specifics this is nothing but a scam meant to screw the Palestinians the name of saving them. The whole solidarity slogan is just a perverse tactic to lend legitimacy to attempts to break Israel’s isolation and support Israel’s economy. It’s shameless.

      “- There are no major private donations going to Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Additionally, Israel acts to prevent the functioning of NGOs and other Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, so this approach isn’t going to work.”

      Thank you for arguing my case. You are right. Israel will welcome visitors who will do nothing but spend money in Israel’s economy and along the way take a few digital snapshots for facebook next a mosque or church. So much for benefiting the Palestinians.

      “- I can give you the names of decent hotels in East Jerusalem if you are concerned about having to stay in West Jerusalem.”

      I am from Jerusalem so spare me the tip. For the 100th time, you have no control over tourists who will NOT stay in east Jerusalem and who will NOT spend their money buying from Palestinian shop owners. Do you think a Qatari will stay in a crummy East Jerusalem hotel when he can spend 10 times that amount at a 5 star Israeli hotel? Get real. Palestinians will get crumbs and Israelis will get the 100s millions without withdrawing 1 cm from the Palestine or shutting down one armed Jewish settlement in Palestine.

      “- Everybody knows that for sex tourism Arabs go to Jounieh in Lebanon, which has a much more developed red light district than any such imaginary district in Tel Aviv.”

      You must have not googled Israel & sex slavery recently. Interesting how you defended Tel Aviv. You must be an Israeli. No wonder how many Israelis defend “economical solidarity only” with Palestinians all of a sudden. It proves my point that this is a scam to boost Israeli economy under the cover of supporting Palestinians.

      “- Israel is getting record numbers of tourists, so your ‘isolation’ is imaginary.”

      We are well familiar will state hasbara. But even if true, Israeli won’t mind the added bonus of a few hundred million oil dollars powered into its brothels and tourism industry while scoring a political victory. After all, this is de facto normalization with Israel without an end to the occupation and ethnic cleansing of non-Jews.

      “- Sure, some Arab and Muslim tourists will spend money in Israel as well. Let’s say they spend $50 in Israel and $50 in the West Bank. Do you have any idea how much the same amount of money helps the Palestinians than the Israelis?”

      You just made these numbers up. Silly you. Why don’t you google statistics about how much an average oil Arab spend on his vacation.

      “The purpose of visits to Jerusalem is to ensure that Arabs actually can afford to stay in Jerusalem and that Arab businesses can operate independently of Israel.”

      That’s dishonest. We have discussed this point before and you keep returning to it. Do you even ready what’s’ been written on this? Palestinians will get crumbs and Israelis will get 95% of this “solidarity” money. Eventually, Arab tourism in Israel will fund the Israeli occupation and armed Jewish settlement building. Maybe soon you can even name some of your armed Jewish colonies after some wealthy oil sheiks.

      ” If you give the current processes 20 years there will be no Palestinian East Jerusalem, there will just be isolated residential areas where Arabs live while working for Israeli companies, cut off from each other and from the West Bank.”

      You have to thank Israeli’s Jewish supremacist policies for this. As for Arabs, if I have to choose between them failing to support Palestinians financially from afar versus coming to Israel and supporting Israel’s economy then my choice is obvious. They can keep their cash and stay away. The only way, given the Israeli rejection of the peace process, to regain Jerusalem won’t be by sending oil Arab tourists to Israel via Jerusalem. This is now a long and protracted conflict not unlike many others before it. Israel is not some isolated plot of land like Australia or New Zealand. Israel is the middle of the Arab world, splitting it into two parts. Geography and demography are Israel’s ultimate curse. Time is not on your side, with all the changes taking place in the Arab world. The Arab world is going to be a very tough place for racist country that openly practices Jewish supremacy and mistreats Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Maya

      The Egyptian hysteria about “normalization” with Israel and its citizens hasn’t got much to do with the Palestinians or with the situation in the West Bank. The Palestinians are being used as an excuse, as a false rationalization of some of the problem that the Egyptian elites have with themselves. Frankly, I’m not sure what this problem is exactly. But solidarity with the Palestinians is not what the Egyptians that go ballistic about normalization with Israel care about.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Adam D

      Hi Maya: you can’t mistreat Arabs in Palestine then wonder why Arabs elsewhere don’t like you. Egypt’s reaction is very rational and not unlike universal Black animosity towards the now defunct Apartheid South Africa. You can’t divide Arabs into Palestinians and non-Palestinians. It does not work. When you practice racism against Arabs who happen to be Palestinians it’s a serious affront to all Arabs. When you discriminate against Christians and Muslims in historic Palestine simply because they are not Jewish, it should be an affront to all Christians and Muslims and every decent person who believes in human dignity. Zionism in its present incarnation is an affront to humanity.

      Reply to Comment
    23. caden

      Is anything else an affront to humanity or just Israel?

      Reply to Comment
    24. sh

      @K9 -“that is exactly right. Mohammed Merah visited Israel. A French Arab Muslim came in through Ben Gurion and traveled around Israel as a tourist. I personally know Muslims that have visited from France, Turkey and from Central Asia without too much bother. So, the argument that Muslims or Arabs are prevented from entering Israel is pure nonsense.”
      .
      No, as usual you got it wrong K9. Palestinian refugees living in your country, civilians who came here not to bomb or to “return” but to invest in Palestinian commerce and industry in the wake of accords and promises brokered by countries like yours that would give Palestinians a chance to thrive economically, were thrown out and not only lost their investment but are denied permission to come here even to visit. They, occupied Palestinians who have studied or lived abroad for more than a certain number of years, the Norman Finkelsteins, Noam Chomskys, International Solidarity Movement or other non-violent activists of whatever provenance are those who are watched like hawks and either prevented from entering or harassed when they do, not the Merahs, who in your words, get into the country “without too much bother”.
      .
      So what is really pure nonsense is the argument that Muslim or Arab or Christian or other supporters of Palestinian independence (not a controversial issue according to international consensus) endanger Israel’s security. Face it: what makes current Israel most jumpy is not Salafis but peaceful people who want to see the Palestinian state implemented as promised. Now tell us why you think that is.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Mona

      Caden, That’s a classic non sequitur. Just because there are other violators of human rights it does not make Israeli brutality less or more inhumane. Sure there are grave human rights violations committed by US, for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq but how does this make Israel’s inhumanity towards Palestinian any less evil?

      Reply to Comment
    26. Kolumn9

      @Kay, So, parsing out the typical Israel basing, you agree that Israel is taking over East Jerusalem and that none of the methods proposed by the previous poster are going to be effective in helping the Palestinians of East Jerusalem. You don’t like what Israel is doing but rely on some vague menacing regional future threats from people that don’t even care enough to donate to the Palestinians to change this reality. I think that Arabs and Muslims aren’t going to come regardless, but all the arguments against it here presume that:
      1) The Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank will be incapable of developing tourism and finding ways to make money from visiting rich Arabs. Silwan for example is a dump and isn’t going to become a tourist mecca, but the areas north of Damascus Gate are prime areas for the development of Arab tourism, but Western tourists don’t feel comfortable there. Given a million Arab and Muslim tourists that area has the potential for employing every single unemployed Arab in Jerusalem.
      2) But, alas, you think that Arabs and Muslims will skip the Arab areas and prefer to visit what? Masada?
      3) Of course, you are right, the Palestinians are better off not even having crumbs, because somehow eventually and magically a nuclear armed first world state is going to crumble because of some strange Middle Eastern clock that is counting down. Does it count down faster when the Palestinians are suffering?
      .

      You are not standing up for the Palestinians. You are sacrificing them on your ideological altar. Much as I hate seeing people be totally impractical, I am not going to continue this argument. It is a pretty absurd argument when a Zionist is trying to support an argument made by a Palestinian for the best interests of the Palestinians against people who claim to support the Palestinians. Oh well, I guess Israel will stick with the “another goat another dunam” strategy and you can stick to slogans, righteous indignation and a magical threatening clock.
      .

      @Sh, the day Mike’s Place blew up in Tel Aviv was not a happy day for me, and I reject the idea that Israel faces no threats from external Salafis. The point is that most Arabs and Muslims can come and visit if they so choose. Your argument is a non sequitur unless you can find somewhere where I argued that *all* Arabs and Muslims will be able to visit.

      Reply to Comment
    27. SAMMAR

      @KOLUMN9

      The day Mike’s place blew up in Tel Aviv in 2003 was also not a happy day for many people, including myself. Neither were the days when other suicide bombing took place. Of course Israel faces threats, I don’t think anyone is denying that.

      But you also have to take into account the threat that Israel represents to the Palestinians. Israeli violence against Palestinians takes place every single day, not on isolated occasions. Israel absolutely has the right to defend itself, does it also have the right to carry out its own acts of aggression ? Do the Palestinians also have the right to defend themselves?

      Would Israelis just sit and let anyone take their land, destroy their homes and orchards and kill and maim their people? How would Israelis react to extrajudicial killings of Jews on the mere suspicion that they might at some point try to carry out an attack? Would the loss of all the people described as “collateral damage” in those attacks be acceptable to Israelis? Are Israeli homes destroyed if someone commits an act of terrorism against Palestinians? It is human nature to defend what is yours and your loved ones, do only Israelis have the right to do so, but not the Palestinians?

      We can argue about strategy and I agree that violent acts only lead to more violence. For every Israeli eye that was harmed, thousands of Palestinian eyes were taken in revenge. Palestinian violence has abated in the last years – for whatever reasons. Israeli violence is ongoing and never stops. And you are right, the Israeli strategy of “another goat, another dunam” has been the overriding Israeli strategy ever since the establishment of the Jewish State and they will stick with it, regardless of what the Palestinians do. It has worked so well – why stop?

      To come back to the point of this discussion: no, Arabs and Muslims cannot come and visit Palestine “if they so choose”. Many are seriously too scared to even try, because even if they do manage to obtain a visa, the way they will be treated at the border is enough to discourage anyone from trying.

      Still, I agree that they should keep on trying. If only just to show Palestinians that they care. But then again, they would not be only helping the Palestinians, they would also be supporting the Israeli occupation. You do realize that the stores in Palestinian areas are full of Israeli products because they are the only ones that are allowed in without hassle? Buying them makes more money for Israeli companies than for Palestinian shop-owners. That by taking a shower in a Palestinian hotel, you pay the increased rate for water that goes straight into Israeli coffers? For water that actually belongs to the Palestinians, but is taken by Israel and sold back at a higher rate?

      Things are not as simple as you make them out to be.

      Reply to Comment
    28. SAMMAR

      @KOLUMN9

      Just one more thing:

      You don’t want the Palestinians to use violence and I agree, they shouldn’t.
      And then you call non-violent demonstrations against Israeli land grabs “anti-Israeli provocation”. What exactly do you want them to do?
      Leave their homes and never return? Lay down and play dead?

      Reply to Comment
    29. Loi

      Kolumn9, one more time, the Israeli strangulation and ethnic cleansing of non-Jews in Jerusalem should not be rewarded with normalization with Israel.

      If Israel gets rewarded for taking Jerusalem Palestinians hostage, then it will only worsen the situation of Palestinians in the long run. If you reward Israeli ethnic cleansing with normalization, there will be more ethnic cleansing.

      The international boycott against the Apartheid regime of South Africa hurt both blacks and whites but in the long run it ended the system of racial injustice against Blacks. It’s the same with Israel. If we start doing more business with Israel (be it openly or under the various solidarity scams ) it will only reward the system of Jewish apartheid in holy lands, and non-jews will suffer more and for much longer, and the pace of ethnic cleansing will pick.

      I don’t how many times I have to repeat this 1 + 1 = 2.

      ONE LAST TIME: REWARDING ISRAELI BLACKMAIL AND BRUTALITY = MORE ISRAELI BLACKMAIL AND BRUTALITY = MORE PALESTINIAN SUFFERING.

      Reply to Comment
    30. sh

      @K9 – “the day Mike’s Place blew up in Tel Aviv was not a happy day for me”
      Nor for me. I can cite some more days that were pretty disastrous for me and others who live on my street, but I’ll spare you.
      .
      “and I reject the idea that Israel faces no threats from external Salafis.”
      Didn’t say it doesn’t, I said that that’s not what alarms Israel’s security apparatus as at least one obvious one got through as recently as 2010. Peaceful pro-Palestinian activists, whatever their provenance, don’t.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Kolumn9

      @Sammar, Palestinian violence has abated because it is a failed tactic that brought no significant results and was beaten down mercilessly by Israel. That they chose to resort to violence in the first place rather than compromising and continuing negotiations frankly makes me care very little about the damage done to them because I don’t see a willingness on their part to actually end this conflict. Without such a willingness the only pragmatic Israeli approach is to act unilaterally to create a sustainable situation for Israel and unfortunately that includes quite a few steps that harm the Palestinians. In such a reality it is true what the Palestinians do is almost irrelevant until they start acting in a way that makes Israelis believe that they are interested in actually building a Palestinian state next to Israel and resolving this conflict pragmatically.
      .

      You ask what it is the Palestinians can do? Fine. Here is my opinion. The Fayyad approach of unilaterally building a state combined with a changing tone towards the Jewish State of Israel on the part of the Palestinians is one that would work for them over time and would put the Israeli Jewish consensus into an impossible position because they would be faced with an obviously pragmatic government that is interested in building a stable and moderate Palestinian state and is clear in its desire to live next to Israel. Non-violence and even boycotts within that framework can work as tactics, but neither has a chance while the Israeli consensus sees their end goal as the end of the state of Israel.
      .

      Getting back to the discussion at hand… Yes, Muslims and Arabs can come and visit Jerusalem and Palestine if they so choose. There are at least 60 million Arabs and Muslims that don’t need a visa and I personally know that it is possible for Muslims to get visas from countries from which Israel requires visas. The argument that no Muslims or Arabs can come because some will get blocked is simply illogical. It is like arguing that no Pakistanis can come to the United States because some Pakistanis don’t get visas.
      .

      Of course Israel will benefit as well from Arabs and Muslims that come to visit Jerusalem and Palestine, well at least monetarily… The core question is whether the Palestinians would benefit. My answer is unequivocally YES. No one here has bothered to argue this point, except to raise the absurd argument that it is better that the Palestinians suffer as long as Israel doesn’t benefit. Do the Palestinians currently benefit from the current flow of tourists that visit East Jerusalem and the West Bank? Of course. Are Arabs and Muslims even more likely to spend time and money in East Jerusalem and the West Bank? Yes. Some things are pretty simple.
      .

      This was my last post on this thread.

      Reply to Comment
    32. sh

      “Silwan for example is a dump and isn’t going to become a tourist mecca, ”
      .
      Silwan is gorgeous considering the fact that its inhabitants pay arnona like any other Jerusalemites but its roads remain – no, become ever more – potholed and its garbage remains uncollected. The only ugly things about it are recent additions. For example, the grandiose, vulgar, Vegas-style entrance to an eye-sore that greets you on the way down; and a certain 7-storey apartment block sporting a symphony of Israeli flags and barbed wire that the courts ruled was to be evacuated and demolished a long time ago but that continues to stick out from the beautiful hillside like an aggressive, if sore, thumb.
      .
      But in time, if the Jerusalem Municipality continues to pursue its goal, it will destroy the Bustan, another of Silwan’s natural beauties, and make the excuse that Silwan is a dump in order to clean and cleanse more of it.
      .
      Some think that another concrete ‘n glass hotel complex with swimming pools constitutes beauty and turns a place into a tourist attraction. But it depends on the kind of tourist you want. Silwan, and you know it, K9, has, in addition to the spring, the fragrant Bustan and picturesque hills, the most stunning view of the Temple Mount-Haram al-Sharif there is. Aryeh King+father-in-law with deep pockets know it too.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Salma

      Kolumn9, you say Palestinians “chose to resort to violence in the first place”

      Do you know of any native people who sat idly by while leaders of a militant racial supremacist group had been giving speeches a century before about ways to expel those natives?

      I will share with you a quote from a speech by Herzel given long before any militant Jewish settlers arrived to the shoes of Palestine: “We shall try to spirit the penniless population [he’s referring to people like my grandparents] across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country. ”

      Herzel was the civilized Zionist. Jabotinsky was full of murderous and self-righteous rage towards non-jews of Palestine.

      And that’s why I am not in Jerusalem today but you are.

      Fact is, Palestinians knew long before any armed Jewish settler set foot in Palestine that the Zionists are coming to expel them if not by starvation then by terror.

      What’s happening in Jerusalem today is the ongoing fulfillment of Herzel’s and Jabotinsky visions.

      And you want us to reward this with normalization with Israel? Israel exploits the peace process as a tactical PR maneuver to reduce international pressure.

      The assassination of Rabin was the price this great man had to pay for deviating from Herzel’s and Jabotinsky’s plans.

      Reply to Comment
    34. David T.

      If there are any similarities between Israel and Apartheid South Africa you will also find them in the arguments against a boycott. (They are quite obvious by the way.)

      Reply to Comment
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