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Alternative travel facts from ‘the Tuscany of the Middle East’

on 17 Comments

A friend alerted me to the Telegraph travel writer Soo Kim’s recent article about visiting Israel (“The Mediterranean country you’d never thought to visit (but really should)”) and noted that it didn’t mention the Palestinian Arabs, not once. We actually make up two thirds of the population of Western Galilee, the region extolled in the article as “Tuscany of the Middle East.” We also make up half of the residents of the entire Galilee and one fifth of all of Israel’s population.

I wrote notes  in the margins of the Telegraph article,  which I will now share with you along with the relevant bits from the hasbara article.

From the original:

“Israel has a tremendous history and legacy, architecturally speaking, much of which dates back to the architecture in Jerusalem which evolved over three millennia, formed by inspirations from the best Persian, Roman, Ottoman Turkish architecture, with a bit of colonial German architecture thrown in the mix”, Asa Bruno, the Israeli-born director of London’s Ron Arad Studio, told Telegraph Travel.

This is a standard Israeli Hasbara gymnastic trick, jumping over 13 centuries of Arab history to avoid using the accursed term.

“Sitting at the mouth of the meandering Yarkon river …”

Heavily polluted. In 1997 when a bridge over it collapsed, a visiting athlete died from the trauma of the fall and three others later on from the polluted water.

“Tel Aviv has a six-mile beach popular with young, hip and laid-back locals.”

A note of caution: You may want to join the “laid-back locals” on the dry sand. The Gaza sewage pollution may reach this beach.

“Israel can boast around 300 days of sunshine a year. Rays are so reliable that the country has been a pioneer of solar energy.”

Even the Bedouins in the Negev, Israel’s citizens with the lowest socioeconomic status, and villagers in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, have adapted the technology extensively (with financial aid from international sources) before Israel put an end to such frivolity. This is in line with its policy of banning the Bedouins’ access to their native environment. The homes and any solar energy rigs one such group, Al-Araqib, had were destroyed for the 116th time as of August 1, 2017. But they come back. I have more pity on the cockroaches in my kitchen, it seems.

“…though fares tend to rise during major Jewish holidays.”

But you will be compensated for the extra cost: The whole country is off limits to Palestinians from the occupied territories during the Jewish holidays and you are spared their disturbing presence.

“Like New York, Tel Aviv has been handed the nickname ‘The City That Never Sleeps’, thanks to its 24-hour lifestyle.”

Just a note of caution: Behind the bohemian façade, nearly every hotel maintenance worker and all the restaurant dishwashers are Palestinian.

“Don’t miss the musabaha.”

Beware! This is an Arabic name which means “floated,” referring to the whole hummus (another Arabic word!) kernels floating in the liquidy mix. In view of the total absence of the word ‘Arabic,’ much less ‘Palestinian,’ in this upbeat travel advertisement, you may want to keep your distance. The entire hummus scene is heavily contaminated by Arab and Palestinian culture.

“Further north in the port of Acre, Uri Buri…”

The restaurant is housed in a very distinctive structure, the high-ceiling, local sandstone home of some Palestinian refugee whose family likely survives on charity handouts in some refugee camp in nearby South Lebanon, awaiting the next Israeli air-raid.

“and the cardamom ice cream…”

Is that another Israeli invention like falafel, shawarma, tabbouleh, pita bread and shakshouka?

“It has more museums per capita than anywhere else in the world.”

Relax! Here as well, you will not run into any trace of Arabs. By definition, culture in Israel is Ashkenazi Jewish. Anything else, even if occasionally present, is seen and interpreted from that perspective.

“Further north along the Mediterranean coast sits the city of Acre. Its UNESCO-listed Old City is…”

You can skip that one now.

“The area is home to Achziv beach, one of the most romantic in the country, offering blue lagoons and natural seawater pools overlooked by cliffs and with incredible views of the small islands that form part of the Achziv National Park.”

Where can I start? There is hardly a square foot in Israel where you are not stepping on Palestinian history. Sitting in the resort in Achziv (as I related in my memoir, A Doctor in Galilee), you are sitting in what was once the center of the prosperous Arab fishing village of al-Zeeb before the 1948 Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe, when the Palestinians were dispossessed of their homeland under the cover of war. Some of al-Zeeb’s homes now house the Club Med resort for international vacationers, while others have been claimed by a Jewish squatter, Eli Avivi, who collected a great many household items, especially ceramic jars and stone implements, left by the Palestinian residents who were driven out from the village to Lebanon by the Jewish forces. Mr. Avivi was reputed to have created a beatnik and hippy commune attracting stray youth from all corners of the earth.

Now here is Soo Kim’s penultimate reason to visit Israel. Most travelers

“are unfamiliar with the Western Galilee region (the country’s most mountainous). It calls itself the ‘Tuscany of the Middle East.’”

Bear with me please while I share a story that illustrates the essence of the Palestinian citizens of Israel’s dysfunctional relationship with ‘the Jewish state,’ the basis of much of my remarks heretofore. But first here is the background: Many of the residents of Nazareth today are internal refugees, ‘present absentees,’ from the neighboring historical town of Saffuriyeh, the childhood home of the Virgin Mary. They fled their homes in 1948 under the strafing of the fledgling Israeli air force. Their homes were then razed and their town replaced by the Jewish-only collective farming village of Moshav Tsipori populated mainly by immigrants from Bulgaria.

Saffuries in Nazareth have since agitated for cleaning their ancestral cemetery and for stopping the next-door farmer from extending the limits of his orchard to let his olive seedlings benefit from the natural rich compost. He had already torn down the partially damaged home on ‘his’ field, one of only two such surviving Palestinian homes. The second had been extended into a guesthouse by the addition of a second story. To the Jewish farmers’ consternation, the court eventually let Saffuriyeh’s descendants clean the shrubbery and thorny overgrowth in the cemetery but not to bury their dead in it.

The olive farmer bore a grudge. He had little clue as to who those characters were or what claim they had to ‘his’ space. To illustrate the absurdity of all of this Jonathan Cook tells a story: Not long ago he led a busload of visitors to Saffuriyeh. When they visited the cemetery, their Palestinian bus driver stayed in his vehicle at the edge of the olive grove. Shortly Jonathan heard Hebrew shouting and cussing. When he interfered, he was shouted at as well. All is well that ends well: The driver had collected a small bag of green olives for his family. The farmer took it from him and the group departed safely.

The next day Jonathan returned with another tour group and a different bus driver. The driver told Jonathan that he is staying in his bus and that he intends to fill a small plastic bag with green olives for his family. Jonathan warned him but he insisted, protesting loudly that as a Palestinian refugee he has the moral right to take some of those luscious olives for his children to savor. Jonathan let the man be and led the group to the cemetery. Shortly he heard the loud shouting and Hebrew cussing. This time the farmer came over and upbraided Jonathan loudly before the group.

Then, taking a deep breath and choosing to explain his message calmly, he begged Jonathan: “You must explain to those Arabs that it is not right to steal what doesn’t belong to you.”

Did you get that, Soo Kim?

Hatim Kanaaneh

Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh is a Palestinian doctor who has worked for over 35 years to bring medical care to Palestinians in Galilee, against a culture of anti-Arab discrimination. He is the author of the book A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel. His collection of short stories entitled Chief Complaint was released by Just World Books in the spring of 2015.

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17 Responses

  1. eljay on October 23, 2017, 11:24 am

    “… It calls itself the ‘Tuscany of the Middle East.’”

    It also calls itself a “moral beacon”, a “light unto the nations” and a “Western-style democracy”.

    And yet if you dare to point out that this ersatz Tuscany is actually a deliberately and unapologetically colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist state, you can count on its Zionist defenders to whataboutedly tell you that it’s not quite as bad as Saudi Arabia, Mali, African “hell-holes”, 19th-century America and China.

    Go figure.

    • m1945 on October 26, 2017, 3:28 pm


      “… a study published by the United Nations showed “that the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in Gaza was by far the lowest in any asymmetric conflict in the history of warfare.”

      • amigo on October 26, 2017, 5:19 pm

        ““… a study published by the United Nations showed “that the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in Gaza was by far the lowest in any asymmetric conflict in the history ” jacko g

        Says no such thing jacko.

        Who is feeding you these lies and why do you keep swallowing them.

      • annie on October 26, 2017, 8:30 pm

        amigo, maybe jack thinks if he puts fake quotemarks around his allegations they will be more convincing.

      • Mooser on October 27, 2017, 1:15 pm

        “Who is feeding you these lies and why do you keep swallowing them.”

        That I think we know.
        I’d like to know who told them that everybody else will swallow them, too, and just on their say-so.

      • amigo on October 28, 2017, 3:09 pm

        We are still waiting for your response jacko.Is the absence of a reply , proof you are a liar.

        Seems you are too busy posting whataboutery on the other threads as a means of justifying the rogue entities criminal actions .

  2. pabelmont on October 23, 2017, 2:43 pm

    Not right to steal what doesn’t belong to you? But surely all property is theft? And the Palestinians took it away from * * * * the Romans?

    Great story. It seems that travel-lit is also subject to theft! Look how much of the story was missing! I wonder who took it.

    Soo Kim?

    • John Douglas on October 24, 2017, 10:28 am

      A Palestinian “stealing” a few olives from land stolen from Palestinians. I guess that makes Palestinians “Indian Givers”.

  3. JosephA on October 23, 2017, 6:37 pm

    Dr. Kanaaneh,

    Thanks for such eloquence. I look forward to reading your book.


  4. Nathan on October 24, 2017, 4:55 am

    Dr. Kanaaneh is complaining that an article promoting tourism to Israel doesn’t mention Palestinian Arabs even though they are “…one fifth of all of Israel’s population”. So, I read the article to see if he’s right, and indeed he is. However, when reading the article, I couldn’t help but notice that the article also doesn’t mention the Jews either, four-fifths of Israel’s population . Our author, out of journalistic fareness, should have registered a parallel complaint. Here, I’ll add the complaint for the benefit of the readers: “How can an article about visiting Israel skip the important fact that Israel is land of the Bible, the central creation of the Jews, four-fifths of the population”. (Now, everyone should feel better).

    Dr Kanaaneh seems to have an expectation that articles written about Israel should be written with an anti-Israel slant. Even an article meant to explain to tourists what there is to see and do in Israel should be presented with the “I-hate-Israel” message of the Mondoweiss website. It shouldn’t be too difficult to understand that there are lots of people in this world who are not obsessed with proving the illegitimacy of Israel (as incredible as this simple fact might be for the anti-Israel crowd).

    • eljay on October 24, 2017, 9:49 am

      || Nathan @ October 24, 2017, 4:55 am ||

      I agree with you that The Telegraph’s article is fairly innocuous as far as tourism blurbs go.

      It’s a shame that (IMO) you diminished your point by deliberately misrepresenting MW’s valid anti-Zionism message as “I hate Israel”.

      • Nathan on October 27, 2017, 8:29 am

        eljay – It can’t be that you don’t sense the “I-hate-Israel” message of this website. In a website that would be focused on normal criticism, you would read here and there some pleasant words within the vast sea of complaints and griping. If you’re not totally consumed by hatred, you are quite capable of noting aspects of Israel that are worthy of a compliment. That’s not going to happen here.

      • eljay on October 27, 2017, 8:41 am

        || Nathan: eljay – It can’t be that you don’t sense the “I-hate-Israel” message of this website. … ||

        I don’t sense that MW has an unqualified “I hate Israel” message. I do sense that MW has an “I hate Israel in its current colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist form” message. It’s a message with which I agree.

        || … In a website that would be focused on normal criticism, you would read here and there some pleasant words within the vast sea of complaints and griping. … That’s not going to happen here. ||

        I’ve read here and there on MW some pleasant words about Israel, so it does happen here.

      • Mooser on October 27, 2017, 6:38 pm

        ” It can’t be that you don’t sense the “I-hate-Israel” message of this website.” “Nathan”

        That’s not what it says on the “About “ page.
        “Nathan” you would feel a lot better is you clicked the link and read the “About” page. There’s nothing there about hating Israel or anything like that.

    • festus on October 24, 2017, 10:03 am

      Your moral compass is broken beyond repair if you don’t share the “I-hate-Israel” sentiment.

      How would you like it if there were organizations dedicated to smearing Jews with accusations of “Goy Hatred”?

      • Mooser on October 24, 2017, 12:21 pm

        “How would you like it if there were organizations dedicated to smearing Jews with accusations of “Goy Hatred”?”

        “festus”, I am convinced Zionists would love that. They don’t take anti-semitism seriously, they think it is a game they can play to their own advantage.

    • Misterioso on October 24, 2017, 11:05 am


      Sigh, more bafflegab.


      “Forget the ‘slippery slope’ — Israel already is an apartheid state” – by eminent Canadian journalist, Neil Macdonald, Canada’s CBC News, Opinion, Oct. 24/17

      “The time has come to call the duck a duck. It’s time to agree with a long list of Israeli political leaders, academics and public figures on both the political left and right, including three former prime ministers, a winner of the Israel prize, two former heads of the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet, and one of the country’s principal newspapers, all of whom have warned that the Jewish state is becoming, or already is, an apartheid state. I would choose the latter characterization.    

      “It’s interesting that within the Israeli discourse, the assertion seems to have become routine, while it remains radioactive in the West, where energetic pro-Israel activists scrutinize the media, the academy and the polity, ready to declare anti-Semitism or incitement at any use of the word.

      “Look at the outrage and venom poured upon former President Jimmy Carter, under whose brokerage the peace accord between Israel and Egypt was signed, when he titled a 2006 book Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.

      “Suddenly, Carter was transformed from a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and statesman to a dotty old man under the sway of terrorists, at least in the eyes of Israel’s supporters, including a significant fraction of his own cohort, Evangelical American Christians.

      “But reality is reality, and a duck is a duck. As the late Yossi Sarid, longtime leader of Israel’s Meretz party and former education minister once put it: ‘What acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck — it is apartheid.’

      “This past June, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak re-stated a position he’s held for years: ‘If we keep controlling the whole area from the Mediterranean to the river Jordan where some 13 million people are living — eight million Israelis, five million Palestinians … if only one entity reigned over this whole area, named Israel, it would become inevitably — that’s the key word, inevitably – either non-Jewish or non-democratic.’ The country is, he repeated, ‘on a slippery slope’ that ends in apartheid.

      “The dividing line between prominent Israelis who use the term in the here and now, rather than as a warning of what’s coming, seems to be the continued existence of the ‘peace process,’ with its promise of a Palestinian state, and self-governance. And when I was posted in Jerusalem for CBC News, back in the late ’90s, that actually did seem like a possibility, if an unlikely one.

      “Since then, the peace process — always half-hearted — has utterly collapsed. Expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank continued, and since the election of Donald Trump, colonization has surged with an invigorated enthusiasm.

      “Their existence is in fact currently being celebrated in a series of appearances by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

      “‘We are here to stay, forever,’ he declared two months ago in the settlement of Barkan, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

      “‘There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.’ (The ‘Land of Israel,’ as opposed to the State of Israel, is a term used by the Israeli right to describe all the territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and sometimes even further).

      “Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, respectively Israel’s justice and education ministers, have said the Palestinians must understand they will never have a state. Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman, a settler, has said there is ‘no hope’ of a mutually agreed upon Palestinian state, but has warned Naftali Bennett against promoting outright annexation:

      “‘What Bennett and his Jewish Home party are proposing is a classical bi-national state,’ Liberman said two years ago. ‘They need to decide if they’re talking about a bi-national state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean … or whether they’re talking about an apartheid state.’

      “Liberman’s logic seems to be that as long as the Palestinians are simply occupied and governed by a different set of laws, with far fewer rights than Israelis (as opposed to denying them a state but giving them a vote in some expanded version of Israel, which the Israeli right considers national suicide), then it is not really apartheid.

      “But annexation at this point would merely amount to staging a home already sold. In the past decade, Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s ‘Iron Wall’ doctrine has given rise to an actual wall, sometimes an iron one, running roughly along the 1967 borders of the West Bank and Gaza. The main roads from Jerusalem north to Ramallah and Nablus and south to Bethlehem and Hebron are now blocked by gigantic, fortified military barriers. The roughly three quarters of a million Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have complete freedom of movement and their own set of roads, effectively forbidden to the disenfranchised Palestinian underclass.

      “Settlers suspected of crimes are entitled to full rights in Israeli courts; Palestinians endure military tribunals, indefinite imprisonment without charge (‘administrative detention’) and collective punishment. Settlers are entitled to carry arms and use them in self-defence; Palestinians are not. Settlers have property rights. Palestinians have property claims. Et cetera.

      “Netanyahu frames it all as a matter of national survival, warning that any land conceded will immediately be occupied by fundamentalist terrorists determined to destroy the State of Israel, with its nuclear weapons, tanks, fighter jets, layered missile defence systems and 600,000-plus active and reserve troops.

      “His definition of terrorism is a nuanced one; at an event a few years ago commemorating the 60th anniversary of the bombing of the King David Hotel by Irgun fighters, considered a terrorist act by the British government to this day, Netanyahu characterized the perpetrators as legitimate military fighters, and warned the outraged British government to watch its language.

      “But then, an elastic worldview is apparently necessary to maintain the status quo; when Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party signed a formal reconciliation recently with the ‘terrorists’ of Hamas, who rule Gaza, both Israel and the United States objected, saying such a union endangers, yes, the peace process. The fact that today’s terrorists tend to become tomorrow’s statesmen (the Irgun bombers later joined the nascent government of Israel, and former Irgun chief Menachem Begin became prime minister) is apparently irrelevant in this context.

      “At any rate, Ehud Barak’s slippery slope is now in the rear view mirror. Yossi Sarid’s duck has arrived. Let’s accept that, drop the pretense, and move on.”

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