I have visited Israel back in April 2018. Some people have claimed that I support the Israeli government and that it is immoral to go there due to the on-going occupation of Palestinian Territories. This blog post is a reply to such accusations. In reality, do I support Nethanyahu’s aggression on Palestinian civilians? No. Do I think it’s ok to visit Israel? Yes but here’s my full opinion on that.
Firstly, people who have accused me of supporting the occupation of Palestine do not see that we have different ways of defining the borders of Israel and Palestine.
Some people claim that “Israel is occupying Palestine”, they either mean that Israel occupies all of British Mandate Palestine since 1947 or they mean that Israel occupies the West Bank since 1967. I think it is very important to speak on the same level. I personally refer to Israel and Palestine as two countries with territories defined since 1967. When I refer to “Israel’s occupation of Palestine” I refer to the current and on-going occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the blockade of Gaza.
Now let’s think for a second. The most touristy countries in the world are Turkey, France, United Kingdom and the UAE. They attract millions of tourists a year but nobody thinks it’s immoral to visit these countries. Shall I remind you that the UK is selling arms to Saudi Arabia which are then used to kill hundreds of civilians in Yemen? Shall I remind you of the involvement of the UK in Iraq?
On another side, France has blood on its hands with a century long occupation of African countries with tragic sufferings in Algeria during its struggle for independence. Meanwhile, France just recently got involved in many military operations in Libya and Syria costing the life of many innocent people.
The UAE is currently bombing the hell out of Yemen alongside Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile its human rights records are extremely low with for example homosexuality punishable by death. Meanwhile, Erdogan is shutting down the free press, cracking down on all opposition and jailing en masse anyone who criticize him.
Don’t even get me started on the USA… The country that sells the American Dream and blinds people off any image of its countless aggressions of innocent civilians. From torturing its prisoners to bombing fiercely in Iraq, Afghanistan, Serbia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Vietnam, and the list is long. The USA is responsible for the destabilization of many countries around the world. Yet… you still think it’s ok to take your photo by the Hollywood sign and gladly wear on your ‘Made in Bangladesh’ T-shirt a printed American flag.
So far I am not talking yet about Israel. Because I want you to see my argument clearly. If you think it’s ok to visit those countries, why isn’t it ok to visit Israel?
Don’t get me wrong. I believe that Israel commits war crimes against Palestinians. I believe that those responsible for them must be punished and brought to justice. Palestinians should enjoy a life in safety and security, with dignity and human rights without any form of occupation or violence from the Israeli state. As Moroccan and Muslim, many people expect me to sympathize with Palestinians because of my nationality or religion. Sorry to disappoint but I sympathize on another level, on a human level. Now, I do recognise the right for two states to exist but I won’t discriminate against any of the two because within each of them, there are humans trapped in this conflict.
Ask yourself a question, would you visit the USA despite the crimes committed by the American state? The answer is probably yes. The same should apply to Israel then. Now, I will be honest with you. Visiting one of them and not the other, just leaves us in plain hypocrisy and I think that doesn’t help anyone.
The purpose of this blog post is not to convince you to visit Israel or change your views about Israel. But I want people to realise that a person visiting a country, is not helping, funding or supporting the regime or whatsoever. Every person should be free to travel wherever they want without facing judgement from others and false accusations. The same actually applies to my trip to North Korea.
There are people in Israel that are misrepresented by their far-right government. In the same way as there are many Palestinians who feel misrepresented by their government. I think it is vital to meet people from everywhere and talk to them, face to face.
Inside Israel, I had the opportunity to meet people working for peace and for mutual recognition of rights between Jews and Arabs. From Israel, I had the opportunity to visit Palestine and be in direct contact with people struggling because of the conflict. It gave me the opportunity to meet them face to face and understand what makes their lives what they are now. It made me realise that my presence in Palestine was a delight for many as they are very happy to see that a Moroccan guy went through all the troubles to get there and buy from their shops, eat at their restaurants or simply say to them “I support you in your struggle!”. This human contact has no price and is beyond any hashtag I might have written in the past like #PrayForPalestine or whatever.
Likewise, I do not want to miss the opportunity to meet people in Israel who feel the same about Palestinians. Many Israelis simply feel that as human-beings they should support the Palestinians’ rights to a life in dignity and safety. I was even told that during my stay in Tel Aviv that there was a protest for Palestine with many Palestinian flags waving around.
To summarise, I don’t give up on my beliefs that Israel is a state that commits crimes against Palestinians. But yet, I think if someone thinks it’s ok to visit the UK, UAE or the USA on the basis that these are “clean” states that respect human rights, then I don’t understand why isn’t it ok to visit Israel too? I am trying to call out the hypocrisy that I feel is very much present in such situations.
Those same people who have criticized my choice for the simple fact that I visit Israel are displaying pictures on social media of their holidays in London, New York and Dubai completely ignoring the fact that those states have committed some of the worst crimes in the past decades: from the war in Iraq to the currently on-going war in Yemen! We should always stand up for injustice around the world but I strongly believe that boycotting a state is not a solution. I might change my believes in the future but for now, I do aim to travel the world this way.
Do you think it’s ok to visit Israel?