What a bust!
Israel is now tied with North Korea as the pariah nation par excellent. For years now it has been attempting to rebrand itself as a tourist mecca. As a frequent visitor, it is indeed a fabulously interesting place—if you can look beyond a 50 year occupation and the daily humiliation of another people.
A week in the West Bank would cure anybody, even a rabid tribalist of total support. Forget a trip to Gaza the only democracy in the Middle East will not allow you to visit and see what 3 brutal killing rampages has done there in the last decade.
The state has tried desperately to “pinkwash” over the ugly facts by talking about the liberal charms of Tel Aviv (never Jerusalem, too many Muslims with a highly conservative ethos). So they promote the country as a haven for gays. See how liberal we are !
Also a failed attempt to “greenwash” the awful ecological mess Israel has created there. The settlements have been dumping untreated waste directly into a sewage canal that runs through the occupied West Bank, affecting Palestinian villages along its banks.The toxic chemical waste has for years been dumped on agricultural land, with villagers reporting a rash of skin diseases and respiratory problems.
Israel has been dumping waste, including hazardous and toxic waste, into the West Bank for years as a cheaper and easier alternative to processing it properly in Israel at appropriate hazardous waste management sites,” according to Palestinian Environmental Authority (PEA) deputy director Jamil Mtoor. The Israeli government has banned plans by the Palestinian Authority to build pipes and pumps to treat and divert wastewater away from the affected villages.
As part of its greenwashing Israel crows about its “reforestation”—such as Canada Park—built over destroyed Palestinian villages.
All in all, the rebranding has been a bust and now the latest failed venture. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights reports the following:
With the Academy Awards fast approaching this Sunday, it’s been a full year since Israel offered all-expenses-paid trips to 2016 Oscars host Chris Rock and 25 top nominees including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Mark Rylance, and Cate Blanchett. The Israeli tourism ministry organized the trip with hopes that the superstars would use their platforms to show Israel in a positive light, countering worldwide outrage over Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
So what happened? It was an utter failure. One year later, it appears that not a single star visited Israel. Last night, the AFP wire service ran this extraordinary headline appearing in many media outlets, “Israel invited 26 Oscar stars to visit. So far none has.”
Bringing celebrities to Israel has long been part of a “Brand Israel” strategy to improve the country’s image abroad. As Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin explained last year, “These are the most senior people in the film industry in Hollywood and leading opinion-formers who we are interested in hosting. Their visit will have enormous resonance among millions of fans and followers, including social media.” But as of this week, the Israeli tourism ministry would not confirm any visits by the stars, and there was no evidence of trips on social media.
It seems that the harder Israel tries to improve its image, the worse it fails. Yesterday’s news comes on the heels of former Super Bowl star Michael Bennett and several other NFL stars also choosing to #SkipTheTrip that they were offered by Israel.
Far from achieving their desired effect, these propaganda trips give us an opportunity to create broader awareness about the Israeli government’s brutal policies and attempts to whitewash them. While not every celebrity will turn down such offers, our cultural boycott campaigns are ensuring that every celebrity facing the choice must now consider the Israeli government’s cynical motivations and the impact on Palestinian communities struggling to survive.
That’s why days after the Oscars trips were announced last February, the US Campaign helped organize a coalition of Palestinian, Israeli, European, and U.S. organizations to launch a #SkipTheTrip campaign including a petition to the stars, individual letters to actors, and a comprehensive social media strategy. The dynamic campaign included creative memes, a comical video, and a satirical invitation from the legendary Brian Eno highlighting the types of “holiday” experiences one could have visiting Palestine like being interrogated, tear-gassed, beaten, and shot at.
One should not ever lose hope about the many Jews of conscience within and without Israel who for years have seen through the blatant propaganda or hasbara.
It was the veteran Israeli diplomat to West Germany Yohanan Meroz (d. 2006) who coined the expression “hasbarable.” Some things you simply can not spin and the shocking brutalization of a civilian population is one of them.
Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy gave voice to this truism in June 2011: “Hasbara will not overcome the unequivocal fact that Israel has been an occupying power for more than four decades. No propaganda can persuade people of good conscience that we’re right as long as millions of Palestinians are living without rights.”