Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jewish gunsmoke tourism

For years, Israel has marketed itself to Jewish tourists as (among other things) a (slightly, safely) risqué, racy experience of "true grit". A Reuters item by Erika Solomon, published Friday August 21 ( reports on a new West Bank tourist attraction which takes this vein to extremes, meanwhile exposing its underpinning of militarism-racism-machismo. A stark testimony, in my view, to Zionist, Israeli war-worship, the magnetic—-and as it turns out lucrative—-appeal and excitement of this mix also allows a reflection of the kind of warped purposes that the concept of "Israel" has come to serve for many non-Israeli Jews. And, conversely, of Israelis' and Zionism's abiding stereotyping of "the usual Jew abroad", as phrased by the settler entrepreneur whose project is featured in the article. Verging on parody, this appalling initiative epitomizes what I see as some of the most aberrant, self-destructive aspects of the
complex play between Israel and diaspora.

The report, titled "'Terrorist' targets popular at West Bank gun range", describes a Jewish owned and operated firing range, in the midst of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, where Jewish tourists practice shooting cardboard cutouts, which they've first shouted down as "terrorist[s]", using "everything from handguns to M-16 combat rifles". One such tourist group, for instance, included "15 clients from 10 to 50 years old". A participant interviewed by Solomon commented on the dubious moral content, saying, "'It was sad to hear young kids express such racism.' … In the group before his … excited children shouted to their parents about being able to 'shoot the Arabs.'"

However, Sharon Gat, the owner of the company that "normally specializes in counter-terrorism and defense training for private security firms and the Israeli Defense Forces" says he is teaching Zionist values; "'I don't want to play games with a terrorist, I want to kill him.'"

Explaining the appeal of his site, he says, "'The usual Jew abroad is not like us. … They learn to be doctors and lawyers. There's an impression that they want to earn money and not that they're strong people. … I thought it would be nice to be next to the people who have fought in all the wars and fought for Israel. It gives you pride in being a Jew." Which, apparently, is not to be had from being a doctor or a lawyer.

(My thanks to Ruth Hiller of New Profile for bringing my attention to this item.)

Rela Mazali

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