Destination Israel

Posted: July 25, 2010 in International politics, Media & Journalism

The contradictions between a newspaper’s editorial and advertising content are often amusing, sometimes bewildering but now and again so glaring they deserve exposure. I’m thinking here about an opinion piece that appeared in the Guardian on Friday, 23 July, Israel turns upon its own’, by Rachel Shabi. The article looks at growing intolerance and racism in Israeli state and society towards sections of its own people, Israeli Arabs (the enemy within), Israeli peace and human rights activists (traitors and Arab-lovers) and increasingly, the majority of Jewish citizens whose origins are Middle Eastern rather than European (thus second class).  It’s been a long time coming, she writes, but “what we’re seeing today is just the unleashing, in more blatant form, of a long- incubated  racism, both institutional and incidental – a casual, acceptable prejudice.” 

It’s a powerful and troubling article,  well worth reading for anyone wanting an informed understanding of Israel and Israeli society. However, I was surprised to buy the Guardian the very next day and discover on page 33 of its Weekend magazine an advertisement placed by the Israeli tourist board that had the following copy:

“Few countries pack as many hidden gems into such a small space as Israel. From the energy and excitement of Tel Aviv to the rich cultural experiences of the Dead Sea, the magical mystery of Jerusalem to the sun and relaxation of Eilat, Israel is the ideal year-round destination.”

As we all know, tourist advertising like this demands a certain degree of suspended disbelief on the part of the consumer. Even at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board produced some wonderful stuff. While foreign governments issued regular warnings to citizens about the risks of travelling to the “wee North”, the good old NITB was busy producing visions of a rural idyll untouched by violence or sectarianism. The disconnect was always blackly amusing for we Northerners, a welcome diversion while the army raided the house or a full-scale riot raged outside…or both.

So indulge me here while I apply some of the same black humour to the wishful thinking of the Israeli tourist board:

“Few countries – apart from Northern Ireland maybe – pack as many hidden gems and illegal settlements into such a small space as Israel. From the energy,  excitement and terrorist attacks of Tel Aviv to the rich cultural experiences and high security of the Dead Sea, the magical mystery of West Jerusalem (avoid the Arab East of the city while we demolish their houses and clear them out)  to the sun, relaxation and rocket attacks of Eilat, Israel is the ideal year-round destination for tourists and big ships loaded with American military hardware.”

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