Sunday, September 11, 2011

  • Sunday, September 11, 2011
  • Elder of Ziyon
The Middle East Fellowship and Holy Land Trust have a booklet where they describe, among other things, how anti-Israel activists should act when they try to enter and leave Israel. It also describes Palestinian Arab bigotry against Westerners, women and Jews, but it contextualizes and minimizes it. Here are some of the interesting parts:
Palestinians are very traditional when it comes to romantic relationships. We urge you to refrain from romantic relations with Palestinians or members of the program for the duration of your stay in Palestine.


Israel and Palestine have admittedly had a bad international profile when it comes to danger from within the country. Stories of bombings, shootings, demonstrations and uprisings are common enough through the images we see in the media. As a result many would-be visitors stay away from the region. The reality is much different from the perceptions that are manufactured on most media outlets.

Traveling within Palestine and Israel is essentially a safe venture. Bethlehem, where the summer program will take place, is a relatively safe place to reside in comparison to other parts of the West Bank. With the Holy Land Trust staff ’s presence on the ground, traveling in and around Bethlehem can be very comfortable.

Visitors are never deliberately targeted within Palestinian areas in the West Bank. Many travelers frequent the West Bank throughout the year and rarely experience anything that suggests violent backlash. To avoid scrupulous attention from Israeli security and Israeli Occupational Forces (IOF), avoid wearing Palestinian keffiyahs in Jewish areas and, conversely, do not wear a Jewish kippa or other Jewish items of clothing in Palestinian areas. Use your common sense when traveling and stay safe.

Do Not Pack:

Any explicit materials about your travel plans or itinerary in the West Bank (including this orientation packet).

Materials that could be seen as inflammatory by Israeli security forces if they search your bags.

Addresses of friends, family or others in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Objects that are restricted by Israeli or airport security.

Female Travelers. Middle Easterners are generally conservative, especially about matters concerning sex and women. It is very important that female visitors make an attempt to be sensitive to local cultural norms. This does not necessarily mean that women are treated with disrespect, but expectations about how women should dress and behave in the Middle East differ from many Western countries. Unfortunately, some Middle Eastern men have a twisted view of Western women. Western movies and TV give them the impression that all Western women are promiscuous and will jump into bed at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t actually take much on your part to perpetuate this belief– bare shoulders or shorts on a woman are “proof ” enough, as well as, a little flirtation or even simple friendliness can quickly be misconstrued as something more.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Western women travelers are guaranteed to be free of harassment if they dress modestly or conduct themselves in a businesslike manner. Prepare yourself for little things to avoid harassment: for instance, we recommend female travelers not to sit in the front seat of a taxi. This might sound trite, but it can prevent a very uncomfortable moment. Politely but firmly turn down whispered invitations and completely ignore come-ons. Accepting the minimum of attention will usually invite more. If ignoring come-ons doesn’t work and the attention starts to get out of hand, seek out a person of authority, or a local woman if possible, to intervene on your behalf. Usually the specter of community shame is enough to put someone back in line.

...Needless to say, many Palestinians have had traumatic experiences with Israeli settlers and soldiers. Because many believe that Israel’s current military policies are supported by all or most Jews, you may, unfortunately, hear the terms “Jew,” “Zionist,” and “Israeli” used interchangeably.

Entry Approaches

Limit Information. By limiting information, you are just a tourist who stayed at a hotel or with friends or hostel within Israel; who didn’t or doesn’t plan to meet with Palestinians, didn’t participate in our summer program in Bethlehem. Use this entry approach and your chances of getting through airport security will be higher and smoother, but never guaranteed.

Some things to keep in mind in using this approach:
  • You are not indicating that you are participating in Palestine Summer Encounter.
  • You are not mentioning either the Holy Land Trust or Middle East Fellowship organizations.
  • You are not indicating that you plan on traveling to the West Bank or Gaza.
  • You have not packed anything that could label you a “Palestinian sympathizer,” in case you are singled out for a search.
  • You have prepared a story for why you chose to travel to just Israel and you have contact information and material to support that story.
We often suggest people to “limit information” but the decision and what you feel comfortable with is ultimately yours.
The booklet also talks about how to go to the media afterwards with everything the activists have learned about how awful Israel is - and presumably not to discuss any sexual advances or bigoted statements  made by Arabs.

(h/t Anne)

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