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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bethlehem 'fights' for tourists

Hey Brits, these are your tax schillings at work.

Al-Beeb produces yet another piece of blatantly biased media in Israel. This one is called 'Bethlehem fights for tourists.' If you watch this video and know nothing about what goes on in this country, you come away with the impression that the poor hoteliers of Bethlehem can't attract any tourists and it's all because those mean, cruel Israelis put up a wall and make people walk through gates and turnstiles (ominously called a 'military checkpoint') to get into the city. Let's go to the videotape and then we'll try to point out some of the ways in which this report could have been less biased.

How could we make this report somewhat fair? For starters, we could say that the 'wall' (which is really nothing more than a fancy fence in much of the country) is there because it has reduced terror attacks outside it by a huge percentage over the last four years despite the fact that it is not yet complete. We could tell the folks at home that the reason it's a wall and not a fence in the Bethlehem area is because 'Palestinian' terrorists used Bethlehem's suburbs to shoot at the Jews of the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo during the early part of this decade, and that in Gilo they also have a wall where the 'Palestinian' gunfire most often hit. It's much easier to shoot through a fence than it is to shoot over a wall, although shooting over a wall is also not impossible. Just go visit Gaza.

We could cite some other reasons why those who might otherwise be most likely to visit Bethlehem may be put off. For example, some Christians might remember the siege on the Church of the Nativity that was carried out by 'Palestinian' terrorists from the 'moderate' Fatah organization and how they held hostages inside the church and trashed it. A Christian who might otherwise visit Bethlehem might keep that in mind when weighing the risks of a visit. They also might remember the IDF's anti-terror operation in Bethlehem in March and wonder how many more terrorists are lurking in the city's alleyways. And given that all but one of Bethlehem's main tourist attractions are Christian (and the one that is not Christian is Jewish), and that most of the tourists the Arab population is targeting are Christian, those tourists may be put off by the fact that Bethlehem was 90% Christian (and the area was 60% Christian) when the 'Palestinian Authority' took over in 1995, and now has less than 20% Christians. Maybe the town isn't hospitable to Christians? (More on the treatment of Christians in the Bethlehem area here).

Finally, there is the practical question of how attractive Bethlehem would be as a tourist destination even if it were easier to reach. Note the hotelier's complaint that most tourists only stay 2-3 hours and don't spend any money. Is there really more there than what the average tourist could see in 2-3 hours? Does the average tourist really feel obligated to sit down and eat lunch in overpriced restaurants and shop in overpriced gift shops? And why would the average tourist want to stay in an overpriced hotel in Bethlehem, when he could stay in a hotel in Jerusalem and have a much wider selection of hotels, restaurants and tourist sites? Maybe things would be better if the 'Palestinian Authority' were allocating money to developing tourism instead of spending it on weapons for its oversized 'police force.'

Those are the questions the BBC and the 'Palestinians' in Bethlehem ought to be asking. When they answer them adequately, Bethlehem may not have to 'fight' for tourists anymore.


At 1:55 PM, Blogger Thud said...

putting this rather crudely, as a potential tourist...I don't want to visit Bethlehem because an arab may kill me...simple as that..my choice.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

In the 80s, when I was in Israel, there was no fence and the entire area was tranquil. This was in the pre-Oslo days when it was anathema in the Israeli political mainstream to contemplate negotiations with terrorist organizations. The times have changed and I don't think any one would agree the "peace process" has made things better. There's a good argument to be made that it took a imperfectly calm situation and made it dangerous. One should view the situation in Bethlehem and Jericho in that light and incidentally, through a Nazi-like ledgermain in the "peace process", Arabs are allowed to move into Jewish areas of Judea and Samaria but Israelis face arrest for entering the Arab populated areas. I can't picture a "peace process" that says "No Jews Allowed" ever bringing about peace. But you'll have to ask the Beeb and Condi Rice why that sort of discrimination against Jews is tolerated that wouldn't be permitted with any other people.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger Nannette said...

Hi Carl, do you know when this was aired by the BBC, I'm putting in a formal complaint.

At 2:45 PM, Blogger heroyalwhyness said...

Good grief . . .any tourist that travels goes through turnstiles and gates and is verbally processed at every airport, bus or train terminal. Long and short term parking facilities are fenced in with every expectation that their vehicles remain 'safe'. These tourists/propagandists' 'suffering' through checkpoints is nothing short of yawn worthy.

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure. I used to remember going to Bethlehem to Rachel's Tomb. Afteward, we'd browse the tourist shops, maybe get a drink on a hot day. Same when we used to drive through Jericho and stop there for a break. Now, even we have to get special permission to visit Rachel's Tomb, which is like a military complex. It's no longer recognizable as the humble dome-topped small building it used to be. You could move the gold in Ft. Knox to the tomb, that's just how protected it is.

As for Jericho, it's been decades.

There are other places as well. Anyone gone hiking in Judea and Samaria lately? Not recommended. The Gilboa Mountains? Same thing.

The Arabs aren't the only ones enclosed.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


No idea when it was broadcast. I think last night. It was posted to YouTube this morning.

Shy Guy,

I can't remember stopping in Bethlehem since 1980 except Rachel's tomb. In 1981, we went for a hike with no protection but a pistol in the desert outside Jericho.

At 12:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carl, yep, way back then.


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