It’s the ultimate contentious issue in the Middle East — how to define territory. This week, the Palestinian Authority’s representatives in the UK were disciplined by the country’s advertising watchdog for seemingly wiping Israel off the map. As part of its campaign, it published a map of Israel, in addition to the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in the red, green and black colors of the Palestinian flag. On the map was the slogan, “Discover Israel.” Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority concluded that the map was “misleading.” But the fight to get tourists to regard Israel as Palestine is still on.
Travel publisher Bradt has just released the first ever guide that covers Israel under the title “Palestine.” Most travel publishers avoid making such political statements by calling their guides something like “Israel and the Palestinian territories.” While the publisher’s blurb plays down the statement by saying that the book deals with “culturally Palestinian (Israeli Arab) enclaves found within Israel,” in interviews with the Palestinian media, author Sarah Irving says that the message is key. She told Maan News:
…visiting, acknowledging and celebrating Palestinian archaeological and historical and cultural sights as part of Palestine’s heritage is very important, and a political act in itself at this time when the Israeli authorities or settlements are appropriating so much Palestinian heritage or culture for their own tourist industry, or simply destroying it in the rush to uncover a very small stratum of Israelite remains.
Of course, many Israelis will seethe with rage at learning that their country is being included in a “Palestine” guide. But maybe they should thank Irving. No amount of Israeli PR or “hasbarah” could get pro-Palestinians visiting Israel, but she rebrands it as “Palestine” and they, and their tourist dollars, are on their way. Give the woman an Israel Prize.