Opinion

Tourist Attractions in 'Yesha-stan': A Display of Israel's Apartheid Mindset

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israelis at a paintball attraction in the settlement of Kedumim in the West Bank, August 2020.
Israelis at a paintball attraction in the settlement of Kedumim in the West Bank, August 2020.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The PR piece about tourism in “Yesha-stan” – i.e., the Israeli settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank – in Haaretz (“An occupation vacation,” August 29) was a welcome one. First of all because it’s important to get to know the other face of the settlers. Not everyone gets to do this.

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People who only read about the settlers' complaints in the media might think that these are beleaguered idealists who have been abandoned to the jaws of the High Court of Justice. People who rely only on daily news reports might see them as no more than talkative politicians, anonymous cutters down of trees, burners of mosques, chasers away of Palestinian shepherds and farmers, misogynist and homophobic rabbis, and doe-eyed heroes who sacrifice their lives for the Land of Israel. And lo and behold, this article showcases them as talented entrepreneurs, clever businesspeople, builders of romantic swimming holes who know how to calculate feasibility and profit.

There is welcome information here about the tourist attractions the settlement enterprise is initiating in the occupied territories, which heretofore was only doled out to us in dribs and drabs. It’s important to get to know this developing aspect of reality in Yesha-stan, which the article calls “the West Bank” by a non-accidental mistake.

Because after all, this information is not about tourism in the West Bank but about tourism in an expanse earmarked for a Palestinian state, which Israel and the Israelis have appropriated and are appropriating to themselves, by means of force, weaponry and military orders and with the backing of the legal system, while leaving behind a few black holes that are outside of the map and statistics. Bantustans. In short, this article is about the development of tourism in the occupied Palestinian territory – minus the Palestinians.

And that brings me to the main reason that this marketing article is welcome: It constitutes an essential anthropological exhibit of the apartheid mentality of Israelis living within the Green Line (Israel's internationally recognized border), not only to the east of it. As an anthropological exhibit, the article demonstrates the ability Israelis have to see and display one-eighth of reality and to act as if it were the entire reality. To show a sliver of the process as if it were the whole process.

For example, the innocent sentence: “In the West Bank, where Israeli planning law does not apply to construction, extraordinary flexibility exists in transitioning from agriculture to tourism.” In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, planning laws are as clay in the hands of Israeli authorities, settlers, and civilian and military legal advisers. The flexibility in shifting from agriculture to tourism in the West Bank is not because Israeli planning law does not apply there, but rather because the real law is an orgiastic takeover of more and more Palestinian land (public and private).

The settlers' agriculture is located on Palestinian agricultural land and land reserves, including the photogenic springs the article boasts about. Palestinians have been excluded from those vast lands and expelled brutally by military orders and fraudulent declarations – the mother of all frauds – about “state land," by violent settlers, and with the encouragement of the army.

This “extraordinary flexibility” does not apply to the Palestinians. Let’s see the Civil Administration permit them to build in their own agricultural zones (in Area C – an artificial category for the 61 percent of the West Bank under Israeli civilian and security control, which was to have been annulled in 1999), B&Bs, swimming pools and turn-off places on the roads for busloads of vacationers. Because when it comes to Palestinians, the Civil Administration confiscates even portable toilets and slender water pipes, not to mention Israel’s restrictions on the amount of water they are allowed to use.

A B&B at Havat Gilad.
A B&B at Havat Gilad. Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

This is a marketing piece because it contains everything that suits and flatters businesspeople, who in this case happen to be settlers. It’s advertising, because it leaves out all the unpleasant details. How was Havat Gilad created? And in which village's land does the Hagvura Spring gurgle?

And why the hell does the name “Ira Rappaport” sound familiar? Oh, of course. He’s another unrepentant member of the underground Jewish terror group from the 1980s. “Two objects can’t live in the same place,” he said in an interview in 2002. “We are the landlords. Because this country is sacred to us and not to them. We won’t give up an inch. Anyone who doesn’t want this, won’t be here.”

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