Forget the Boycott – Why Even Boycotters Should Visit Israel
Politics is well and truly in the hands of the idiots. The Far Right is rising across Europe and has well and truly arrived in America. At the other end of the spectrum, the left is collapsing into a scattered pile of indulgent, sanctimonious, disjointed causes rendering it unable to effect any real challenge.
A lot has been written about Trump and the right but today I want to talk about the left. The right is winning only because we on the left are allowing it because we cannot get our act together. I shall elaborate.
It seems the classical left is dead. It appears to me that we are living in times when we are seeing a new kind of mindset emerge, we are seeing the rise of the individual who champions any and every “alternative cause” regardless of what they are purely as some kind of badge of identity. The 3 in 1 punk-hippie-anarchist, is pro-any-apparently-marginalised-minority and mindlessly protests against capitalism by tweeting through an iPhone. These people do exist and frankly they are giving left wing politics and ideologies a bad name.
What does this have to do with Israel?
One of the arch, ready made, go-to, shout first and think later opinions of this mindset, is being anti-Israel. “Free Palestine” and “Boycott Israel“ badges are all too often worn next to “A for Anarchy” patches by people sporting dreadlocks, Black Flag T-shirts and terrible BO.
Now that I’ve offended more or less everybody lets get down to business and I will tell you just why you should check your ideology at the border and visit Israel anyway;
Because its the only way you will actually understand the situation
Most boycotter’s learned everything they know about Israel via western media. Deciding to never visit a place whilst simultaneously holding such a strong view on it is beyond paradoxical and first hand experience is the only real way to ever really understand such a complex situation.
There are two sides to every story and you will only hear them by being on the ground and speaking to the people from all sides. Whichever side of this debate you sit on, I implore you to go to Israel & Palestine and speak to Jewish shopkeepers, Arab cab drivers and soldiers patrolling the West Bank. I guarantee that after a visit you may not change your mind, but you will at least acknowledge that its not actually quite so black and white after all. Personally, I learned more in one day exploring Hebron that I could have done from years of CNN. I certainly learned that the Jaffa Oranges you refuse to buy in Tesco are often picked by Palestinians who need the work.
Because you are probably applying a double standard
Statistically, most of my readers are in the UK or USA and our nations are the worst oppressors in human history. The latter dispossessed an entire continent and the former brutally colonised the entire f**ing world, murdering countless millions of people in ravenous quests for tea and silk. In short we committed human rights transgressions and indulged in land grabs far beyond Israel’s wildest nightmares.
In case any of you are screaming, “but that was a long time ago!”, then need I remind you that Belfast is still under UK occupation and it was only 10 years ago we joined forces to illegally invade a couple of middle eastern countries in order to satiate our thirst for oil. That car you drive around in came at the expense of some kids limbs so if you’re going to boycott Israel then do be sure you burn your own passport first.
You have probably visited a worse regime
I met quite lot of the “I will never visit Israel” crowd in India. My go to response was that Indian tourism runs on exploitation of the poor, the government allows children to be born in the street, blames women for being raped and the army murders loads of Kashmiri’s each year. Most people didn’t know anything about this but even after I enlightened them, none of them burned their visa and took the first flight home, rather they just took another drag on their spliff and returned to their favourite Yoga position (the head up the arse).
China, Russia, & Cuba all have dodgy human rights records and most western countries were complicit in the illegal middle eastern wars of the last decade. The only safe place left to visit is Iceland.
Because the history and nature is beyond politics
The regions landscape is ancient and its history reaches back 1000’s of years whereas the modern conflict only started in 1948. There is just so much rich history and natural beauty in the region that it really should be on every bodies bucket list and needs to be seen by everybody with even the vaguest interest in travel. It is also possible see this history and the natural beauty outside of the lens of current conflict. The conflict is temporary but the land is eternal.
Because the boycott is ineffective
The boycott hasn’t quite caused the State of Israel to collapse and implode just yet and there is no sign that it will do so. On the contrary the Israeli economy is booming. This economic miracle has caused living costs to spiral which in turn caused a wave of domestic protests in 2011 about the cost of living (yes, Israeli people have the same day to day concerns about food and housing as you do).
If you really want to make a difference, then why not go to the West Bank, spend your money there, speak to the people and then share your first hand experience when you get back home. You can help the Palestinians far more by coming here than you can by waving a placard back home.
Because the people are great
Demonising a nation inevitably results in also demonising its people. I have heard people say that Israeli’s are rude & selfish and that because they do military service, they are all personally culpable for the states transgressions. But guess what? They are just regular people with normal lives and hopes and fears. Some are pro -government, some are massively anti-it and a lot are somewhere in the middle just like you probably are about your own country.
For the most part though, they are friendly, helpful and good fun; they do not deserve to be judged by the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Because they won’t stamp your passport
One objection some people have is that getting an Israeli stamp in your passport can impede your future transport plans. It is still the case that many hard-core Islamic countries (Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc) will not let you in if they ascertain you have been to Israel but luckily, Israel have now recognised this and instead issue you with a blue card.
Besides that, all of the aforementioned countries also have questionable regimes so you’re probably already boycotting them anyway…
Jerusalem is the Holy City
Jerusalem is the holiest city in both Christianity and Judaism and the third most in Islam. That should tell you that its importance in human history is kind of unrivalled and therefore you really should check it out. By making even an atheistic pilgrimage to Jerusalem you are tripling your chances of going to heaven if it turns out that one of these Gods is the real deal (though strictly speaking its all the same God who spoke to Moses and nobody actually disputes that…)
In the minds of many Palestinians, Jerusalem is also still their capital and they would love for you to visit and to stay with them at any of the many guesthouses around Damascus Gate.
Because it connects Jordan and Egypt
Jordan and Egypt are awesome destinations. They are cheap, the people are cool and between them they have an absolute embarrassment of wonders. Come to see Petra, the Pyramids, Wadi Rum, Sinai, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea and to munch on the best shwarma’s in the world!
In short you can easily spend 7 – 10 days visiting these outstanding places and have an utterly unforgettable break at a bargain price. For a suggested itinerary, you can fly to Amman, make your way south-west and then then fly home from Cairo. However, to get from one to the other, you will need to go through Israel and if you are going to pass through then you may as well spend at least a few days hanging out there. You get to visit 3 x countries in one trip and besides that, going the long way round would be plain churlish.
Why You Should Visit Israel
In summary, Israel has become one of my favourite countries to travel because off its nature, its history, its accessibility and the people I meet. This does not mean for a second that I support its current regime, everything that happens in the region or condone the reported human rights violations. For from it. What it does mean is that it is possible to make a distinction between a political agenda and a living, breathing country made up of millions of people all with differing backgrounds, religions and beliefs. You owe it to yourself to come to Israel and experience everything its has to show you for yourself.