Building and Breaking Ties: Political Tourism in Israel/Palestine

By Emily Schneider
Submitted to Session P4812 (Tourism, Heritage, and the Politics of Place in the Middle East, 2017 Annual Meeting
Israel; Palestine; West Bank;
Arab-Israeli Conflict; Colonialism; Conflict Resolution; Diaspora/Refugee Studies; Globalization; Identity/Representation; Israel Studies; Judaic Studies; Nationalism; Peace Studies; Zionism;
LCD Projector without Audio;
With tourism as the primary vehicle by which individuals experience foreign peoples and places, activists and scholars alike have recognized the importance of tourism as a mechanism to transmit nationalist sentiments, provoke moral outrage, and mobilize international networks for social change. Though both Israelis and Palestinians employ tourism to advance their political interests, the Israeli state maintains near total control over the tourism industry, which in turn prevents foreign tourists from accessing Palestinian perspectives on the conflict. In response, Palestinian organizations along with critical Israeli/Jewish-led groups have attempted to inform foreign visitors of Palestinian narratives through offering alternative tours to the Occupied West Bank (OWB). A subset of these alternative tours includes programs that target non-Israeli Jews who arrive in the country through well-known, traditional tours such as Birthright. This project investigates these alternative tours and their effects using ethnographic methods, participant observation, and in-depth, longitudinal interviews with tour participants. Although there is a growing body of research on both Zionist tours to Israel and alternative tourism in Palestine, this study fills a gap in the literature, as few scholars have analyzed the intersection of these two tourism industries. Through focusing on this contradictory, and therefore revealing point of collision, this project analyzes the role of tourism in cultivating transnational allegiances, and the power of tourism to shift political thinking and action on Palestine in the American-Jewish community.