For American awakenings, one of the most prominent was when travel guru Rick Steves watched “Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land” and realized he’d been “bamboozled” by mainstream coverage of this conflict.
Since then he’s been learning more about the conflict, and if all goes well, he plans to do a show that covers Israel and — somewhat astonishingly — the West Bank in the fall.
The West Bank is, of course, a phenomenal travel destination for many reasons, but this may be the first time anyone has done an American TV show specifically about traveling there. (He did a similar show about Iran that was very well received.) It’s incredibly exciting.
As part of his preparation, Steves read my book and interviewed me on his radio show. He asked about getting through the Israeli border (I advised his listeners to lie if they planned on visiting the West Bank), separate roads (I corrected him when he called them “equivalent” road systems), East Jerusalem (and its settlements), Ramallah’s supposedly booming economy (I compared it to a Potemkin village), and whether or not the conflict was really about religion (you can guess my answer).
He threw a lot at me and made comments so fast I could barely keep up (there were more things I wanted to clarify but didn’t have time), but even so I was nervous it would be yanked off the air for “going too far.” To my surprise the producer liked it, and it ran almost in full. You can listen to it at this link.
National Geographic Weekend also interviewed me, and the questions and answers were similarly intense, yet they didn’t cut anything other than a brief discussion we had about the Arab Peace Initiative.
Great beaches, flavorful food and friendly, good looking locals would typically describe Brazil or a South Pacific island heaven. But most Americans would be surprised to hear Pamela Olson describe Palestine and her time in the Middle East in exactly these terms. She tells Boyd that life, when seen from the eyes of an Palestinian citizen, can be very difficult, but that shouldn’t dissuade others from visiting the region.
It’s part of a trend in public opinion I’ve been noticing throughout my tour for Fast Times in Palestine. and via a great deal of other anecdotal evidence. Whatever the polls say, more and more Americans are waking up to the true nature of this conflict, and more and more broadcast outlets are beginning to lose their fear about covering it honestly. And the rate of change seems to be accelerating. I don’t know what kind of concrete effect it will have, or when, but it’s been stunning to behold.
(My last tour stops will be in Washington, DC on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.)