Monday, June 15, 2015

  • Monday, June 15, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
Palestine Press Agency reports that Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics has released figures on tourism for the first five months of the year.

While tourism altogether has declined from last year, the number of people visiting Israel from Arab countries is increasing.

According to the report, 14,200 tourists from Jordan, Egypt and Morocco visited Israel from January to May. The article says that most of the Moroccan tourists are Jews. 

In addition, there are tens of thousands of visitors from other Muslim countries. 13.3 thousand came from Turkey, 1,900 from Malaysia and 9,700 from Indonesia.

Haaretz reported in April that Muslim visitors were making up for a decline in visitors to Jerusalem. There is a bitter controversy in the Arab world about whether people should visit Jerusalem; the PA says it helps support Palestinians while others, including Hamas, say that it promotes "normalization" with Israel.  

Jerusalem author and analyst Rasem Obeidat told Al-Monitor, “These visits fall within the scope of normalization. The first beneficiary is the Israeli occupation, since tourists must necessarily pass through it. These visits will benefit the occupation economically, since the latter controls the infrastructure, hotels, restaurants and transportation in the city.”

Obeidat added, “These visits work to embellish the image of the occupation, recognize its legitimacy and sovereignty over the city and portray it as a democratic entity, tolerant of religious freedoms. Yet in reality, Jerusalemites are prohibited from accessing Al-Aqsa and the city is subject to systematic Judaization.”

Jamal Amr, a professor of urban planning at Birzeit University and Jerusalem Foundation member, told Al-Monitor, “Arab visits to Jerusalem are merely a low political ploy exploiting Al-Aqsa to beautify the image of the occupation, which is the only beneficiary from these visits.”

Amr said, “Arabs do not support Jerusalem. This matter is not on their agenda. They keep disappointing this city by falling short on all of the promises they made. Why does [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, who declared that Jerusalem is not the capital of Palestine, allow them to visit Al-Aqsa while preventing Palestinians from doing so?”

Amr pointed out that visitors to Jerusalem do not stay at Palestinian hotels, obtain Palestinian visas or eat in Palestinian restaurants. “All this is a blatant play by the Arab regimes to beautify the occupation and portray it as a democratic entity tolerant of religious freedoms, contrary to reality,” Amr said.
Israel has eased restrictions on West Bank Arabs from visiting Israel during Ramadan.

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