Occupation Tourism: Savor AC, Wi-fi, Heated Pool, Breakfast Buffet and Picturesque Views Where Disenfranchised People Once Lived
Israel's Netanyahu is being justly pilloried for his blindly bellicose stance on Iran, from his lies on their nuclear program to his grim insistence that the U.S. make war, not diplomacy. But his crimes go much further. At home, he has overseen a record expansion of illegal settlements and, with them, a thriving surreal industry dubbed Settlement Tourism - cue hot tubs, night clubs, vineyard tours and IDF Shooting Adventures - to ensure his new Palestinian-less "facts on the ground" stay that way.
In the wake of recent revelations by his own spy agency that he lied about Iran's nuclear capability, Netanyahu faces massive backlash to his planned visit next week to Congress, with a reported four out of five Democrats opposing it, talk of a boycott brewing, and growing international censure. As is his habit, Netanyahu is forging ahead anyway. He just released a flamboyantly hard-hitting campaign ad in which he compares himself to legendary Israeli leader David Ben Gurion and equates the threat of Iran to an existential threat to the very existence of Israel - the same threat he's repeatedly cited in defense of ongoing crackdowns against critics of his hawkish policies as well as illegal settlements that last year saw a record rise of 40%. Despite international pressure, he has already said that if re-elected he will likely not dismantle any of those settlements, which have displaced thousands of Bedouins in the West Bank and a growing number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Helping reenforce his infamous notion of "facts on the ground" - aka, if you build it, they will eventually give up trying to return to what is historically their home - the occupation/settlement tourist industry - including Adelson-funded "fact-finding" tours for U.S. lawmakers - is booming, aided and abetted by hugely profitable global websites like Trip Advisor and Booking.com that invariably, inaccurately describe their lush locations as "in Israel." Thus do vacation resorts and four-star hotels and six-bedroom villas and a Golan Heights Holiday Village built like a Swiss alpine village offer all the pleasures and excess of so-called Western civilization, albeit sometimes with armed guards: friendly staff, good food, peaceful surroundings, panoramic views; spacious and elegantly appointed guest rooms featuring "all modern comforts" like pillow selection and black-out curtains; extra delights like breakfast buffets, heated pools, horseback riding, designer bathtubs, hot tubs, nightclubs, playgrounds, wi-fi, and, duh, air conditioning wherever you go - this, lest we forget, where Palestinians often live without running water in tents, hovels or the rubble of the homes that Israelis have repeatedly destroyed.
Sensing profit, settlers themselves have gotten into the tourism act, using the owner-rental site airbnb.com and settlement websites to offer visitors the exotic pleasures of their West Bank homes in what one calls "the heart of the arid and salty desert." Some have partnered with Ahava, the infamous settlement company that's a prime target of the BDS movement. Enticing activities range from tours through a rebranded “Wine Route” (vineyards that sometimes replaced Palestinian olive groves) to an an Agricultural Tour of the Dead Sea with visits to dairy herds and date fields (in occupied land to which Palestinians are denied access) to sleeping in a Bedouin camp (conveniently emptied by the IDF) “in keeping with the nomadic Bedouin tradition.” For the truly adventurous, there's also "Hebrew Extreme Tourism" at Gosh Etzion, where settlers offer a package of storytelling about battles, live shooting performances and a chance to practice shooting at cardboard “terrorists,” and a variety of tourist programs for all ages at Caliber3, a private counterterrorism training center at a settlement south of Jerusalem. Their most popular program, the two-hour IDF Shooting Adventure, boasts "instructors (with) real battlefield experience...You will be able to hear their stories about places and operations you heard in the news or history lessons!" Speaking of history lessons: When Netanyahu asks us to listen, let's not forget what he's wrought.