Palestinians walk past the Dome of Rock at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City, on January 13, 2017.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Amnesty International has long sought to isolate Israel by lobbying governments, international bodies, and civil society to adopt boycotts against the Jewish state.
The organization reached new levels of discrimination in its recent report, “Digital Tourism and Israel’s Illegal Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” In it, the international NGO superpower attempts to criminalize Jewish and Christian tourism to holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank, erasing the Bible, and denying the Jewish people’s connection to its historic homeland.
According to Amnesty, travel platforms such as Airbnb, Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, TripAdvisor and others, are “contributing to human rights violations” by facilitating and advertising travel to Judaism and Christianity’s holiest sites, because these lie beyond the 1949 Armistice line – the “Green Line.” Specifically, Amnesty presents as deeply problematic tourism to Old Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as well as to Jewish historic locations in the West Bank.
For Amnesty, biblical sites in particular, alongside other locations of importance and interest in Jerusalem and the West Bank, are inconvenient, legitimizing Israel’s historical narrative as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Regardless of the political future of these areas, there can be no denying their historic Jewish significance. Amnesty, however, is attempting to sever, erase, and even ban these ties.
In diminishing these religious and cultural connections, Amnesty accuses Israel of creating a “settlement tourism industry” to help “sustain and expand” communities beyond the Green Line. Israel’s interest in Jewish archaeology is reduced to artificial manipulation, used “to make the link between the modern State of Israel and its Jewish history explicit,” while “rewriting of history [which] has the effect of minimizing the Palestinian people’s own historic links to the region.”
The possibility that Jews and Christians would visit holy sites, and want to see archaeological remnants of biblical locations for their religious and historical significance, is not entertained.
The timing of this publication is not coincidental. As emphasized in the report’s recommendations, it is clearly calibrated to advance a proposed UN Human Rights Council “blacklist” of companies operating in Israel and the West Bank.
Amnesty tries to contribute to that discriminatory effort in a predictably clumsy and shoddy manner. The new report is based largely on anonymous statements cut and pasted from other ideologically motivated NGOs, but without the addition of new, credible, or meaningful information.
MOREOVER, THE group claims myriad supposed violations of international law that stem from the existence of Israeli settlements. The connection between these allegations and tourism is tangential at best, and in many cases, outright ridiculous. How, pray tell, does Amnesty believe that visits to resorts on the Dead Sea within Israel’s internationally accepted borders contribute to the arrests of Palestinians in Ramallah? Can it explain how worship in Jerusalem affects Palestinian education or water infrastructure?
Amnesty’s blatant attempt to expunge Jewish history from the world’s conscience follows in the footsteps of UNESCO decisions that subvert Jewish connections to Jerusalem and declare the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb as being Palestinian heritage sites.
While joining anti-Israel propagandists who deliberately rewrite history in order to strip Israel of legitimacy as a Jewish state, Amnesty’s new campaign includes another insidious layer. By waging war on Jewish and Christian places of pilgrimage, it seeks to stigmatize Jews and Christians the world over for engaging with and discovering their cultural, religious, and historical heritage. While it speaks about multinational corporations, Amnesty’s ire is in fact intended for synagogues, churches, community centers, and youth groups around the globe looking to celebrate their faith and learn about their past.
Amnesty’s actions are obscene but not surprising. In May 2018, the organization hosted a conference of the UK branch of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions that explicitly called to “start actively campaigning for one-state,” in other words, the elimination of the Jewish state. Amnesty’s censorship of Jewish history should be seen as a tactic with which it hopes to achieve this strategic aim.
Jewish and Christian leaders and institutions, as well as governments and global bodies, should make it clear that Amnesty’s obscene behavior will not be tolerated. It is patently unacceptable for a group that claims the mantle of human rights to so egregiously and maliciously abuse the rights of Jews and Christians.The writer is the international spokesperson for NGO Monitor.
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