Guide ends years-long hiatus to show you the sights…

…of Gaza

And, no — it’s not me.

And, you can’t go there on your own, because the Israeli authorities (aided, alas, by Egypt) completely forbid the entry of tourists, one of the lesser-known facets of their perverse siege of the Gaza Strip that has ground on now for a dozen years (see HERE and HERE).

Nevertheless, a team from NPR recently went in as journalists and engaged long-lapsed tour guide Ayman Hassouna to show them some of the places — historic sites, colorful markets, mosques and churches, even a smattering of upscale hotels and restaurants — where he used to take visitors.


Vintage 1960s postcard by the Israeli company Palphot (Photo: Daniel Estrin)


Now the NPR crew, headed by correspondent Daniel Estrin, take us along for the ride on their one-day immersion into a Gaza most of us will likely never get to see in person. Numerous interesting photographs, and both the text and audio versions of their report, await you HERE:

Here’s What Tourists Might See If They Were Allowed To Visit Gaza


Gaza has a second face: the face of culture, the face of tourism … We want to be Gaza open, for the people, for the world. Only that.

— Ayman Hassouna

Posted in Gaza, Israel-Palestine Scene, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Occupied Territories, Palestinians, PHOTOS | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“Jerusalem Is Not Disneyland”– Despite serious objections, cable car crisscrossing Historic Basin forges ahead

Jerusalem cable car project passes over objections from many quarters

Political interests drive tourism plan that would blight historic city’s skyline and bypass Palestinians

by JONATHAN COOK /  13 May 2019

A proposed cable car project through occupied East Jerusalem has received new impetus from the rise of the Israeli far right and Washington’s decision to move its embassy to the city. But if completed, critics say, the long-running proposal would contribute to erasing the visibility of Palestinians in the city they hope to make their capital.

cable car infographic Haaretz

Jerusalem Cable Car Infographic (Haaretz)

Planning for the $55 million tourism project continues despite unifying archaeologists, architects, Palestinians, and a tiny community of Jews against it – in a sign of Israel’s ever-growing confidence in making unilateral moves in occupied parts of Jerusalem.

Critics say the cable car will help hide the local Palestinian population from the roughly 3 million tourists who visit Jerusalem each year, turning the city into a “Disneyland” focused on promoting Israeli interests.

“The advantage for Israel is that visitors can be prevented from having any dealings with Palestinians,” said Aviv Tartasky, a researcher with Ir Amim, an Israeli organisation that campaigns for equal rights in Jerusalem.

“The local population will be largely erased from the experience of visiting Jerusalem. Tourists will pass over Palestinian residents, via the cable car, and then pass under them via tunnels.”

Israel’s Ministry of Tourism dismissed the criticism. In a statement to The National, the ministry said the cable car project was “a significant milestone in the promotion of Jerusalem and the strengthening of its status as a world tourism capital”.

Settler-run tours

The cable car, the largest project of its type undertaken by Israel, could be completed as early as Continue reading

Posted in City of David, Hinnom Valley, JERUSALEM, Palestinians, Politics, The Occupation, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friday LIVESTREAM: “Reframing the Discourse on Israel/Palestine”


CLICK image to watch LIVESTREAMED event, 12 noon – 8 pm (EDT) Friday APR 5th.

Friday April 5th is an opportunity to learn and be challenged via a major symposium — hosted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, chaired by award-winning journalist Sandy Tolan, and assembling a wide-ranging slate of scholars, journalists and activists:

Can We Talk About It? Reframing the Discourse on Israel/Palestine

Friday, April 5th, 2019

9 AM – 5 PM (PDT) / 12 noon – 8 PM (EDT)

Direct Link to LIVESTREAM


Posted in Gaza, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Journalism, Modern History, Occupied Territories, Palestinians, Politics, Racism, Religion, The Media, The Occupation, U.S. Foreign Policy, VIDEOS | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Awaiting You in Bethlehem: Banksy’s Quirky “Walled-Off Hotel”

I have a certain affinity for the absurd. Not absurdity for its own sake, mind you, but the kind that instructs and illuminates, that comments upon our world and helps us grapple with the harsh realities it confronts us with. Such is Bethlehem’s Walled Off Hotel.

When I first heard of this place almost a year ago, I launched upon a post… which then languished in my “drafts” folder, as sometimes happens. Now, independent journalist Jonathan Cook (if I wait, he often makes my life so much easier!) shares with readers his first-hand impressions of Bethlehem’s edgy art installation-cum-hotel — and the fact that what was originally conceived as a time-limited project has taken on an unexpected life of its own.

walled off hotel

Face-off: The Walled Off Hotel vs. The Wall, 2017.

Background: The elusive street artist Banksy — famously both invisible and (supposedly) anonymous — has been pretty much a household name in his native UK for years, if not a cultural icon. In the States, however, he’s always been much lesser known.  I, in fact, had never heard of him until I began encountering his graffiti-images on my occasional visits to Bethlehem (and during my residence there in 2013, before departing the country for good). It was especially that town’s Israeli-built Separation Wall that offered the artist a ready-made canvas for his work, whimsical yet politically charged images that reflect his long-time advocacy of the Palestinian cause.

Often rendered via an intricate stencilling technique, Banksy’s works of political and social commentary are laced with dark humor — and the absurd. (What, after all, was more absurd than Banksy’s 2018 London auction-house stunt— a framed Banksy painting that self-shredded an instant after the Sotheby’s hammer fell for over a million dollars, creating in essence a new work of art on the spot!)

Anyway, I was intrigued by his opening of this totally off-beat but completely real “art hotel” in early 2017. (Sample: the hotel boasts the “worst view in the world” — of the Separation Wall and its watchtowers looming only meters away.) The place is a hotel, museum, protest and gallery all in one, packed with the artworks and angry brilliance of its owner, created in hopes of bringing both Israeli and foreign tourists – and dialogue – to the West Bank city.

Beyond this, I will let Jonathan Cook tell the story, as he aptly connects all the dots. Cook’s article is reproduced in full below, and found online HERE.

Following that is a smorgasbord of related items, and finally a sampling of Banksy (or at least Banksy-style) art from Bethlehem, pulled from online sources.

* * *

Inside Banksy’s The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem

We check into Banksy’s bizarre Palestinian hotel, where the hospitality is as peculiar as the message is powerful

Anonymous British street artist Banksy made headlines in October when his $1.4 million artwork Girl with Balloon self-destructed by passing through a shredder concealed in its frame at a London auction moments after it had been bought.

But in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, a much larger Banksy art project – a hotel boasting “the worst view in the world” – appears to be unexpectedly saving itself from similar, planned destruction.

When it opened in March last year [2017], The Walled Off Hotel – hemmed in by the eight-metre-high concrete wall built by Israel to encage Bethlehem – was supposed to be operational for only a year. But nearly two years on, as I joined those staying in one of its nine Banksy-designed rooms, it was clearly going from strength to strength.

Originally, The Walled Off Hotel was intended as a temporary and provocative piece of installation art, Continue reading

Posted in Bethlehem area, Christmas, For FUN (mostly), Israel-Palestine Scene, Occupied Territories, Palestinian Christians, Palestinians, Separation Barrier, The Occupation | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

VIDEO | Israeli Journalist Says “It’s Time to Tell the Truth”

Those are the words of commentator and Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy speaking from Tel Aviv a few days ago. They came in the wake of the recent comments of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), followed by a flurry of media blather and finally a knee-jerk Congressional resolution condemning anti-semitism and other forms of ethnic-religious hate. Weighing in on the brouhaha, Levy — in his characteristic no-holds-barred manner — makes it clear what it was really all about.

Under ordinary circumstances, no reasonable person should object to a Congressional resolution against hate — except that this one is being wielded as a political club, to silence much-needed political and public discourse. Levy says, in part:

gideon levy_3

CLICK on image for full comments

The context is very suspicious and very troubling […] We have to say the truth […] What is happening now is that some kind of fresh air, some kind of new voices are emerging from Capitol Hill, raising legitimate questions about Israel, about America’s foreign policy toward Israel and about the Israeli lobby in the States. Those are very legitimate questions, and it is more than needed to raise them. But the Israeli propaganda and the Jewish propaganda in recent years [have employed] a systematic method: whenever anybody dares to raise questions or to criticize Israel, he is immediately and automatically labeled as anti-Semite, and then he has to shut his mouth, because after this, what can he say? This vicious circle should be broken.

To view the first interview segment featuring Gideon Levy (6 min.), go HERE (or click on above image). Then…

The discussion continues with two other informed observers (and more of Levy!): Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and Remi Kannazi, a Palestinian-American poet and activist (17 min.).

* * *

Finally, let’s be clear: Anti-semitism Continue reading

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U.S. closes its 175-year-old consular mission in Jerusalem, further downgrading relations with Palestinians

An article published today by NPR correspondent Daniel Estrin notes the closing of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, a mission which represented the United States’ sole diplomatic outreach to the Oslo-created Palestinian Authority, and thus to the state-less Palestinian people.

Jaffa Gate procession +flags 06033u (517x640)

A religious procession inside Jaffa Gate, looking east, sometime after 1898. The building at upper right–with four arched windows and a large American flag–housed the consulate in the late 19th century. Also, note the “Vester & Co.” sign at left. (Photo: Matson Collection, U.S. Library of Congress)

(Historical notes: The first US Consul to Jerusalem was appointed in 1844 by President John Tyler. A permanent consular presence was established in 1856, in a building inside Jaffa Gate which today houses the Swedish Christian Study Center (see photo). The consular location was changed in the late 19th century, then found its permanent home in 1912 in the Mamilla neighborhood west of the Old City, in a residential compound built and formerly occupied by the German missionary and architect Ferdinand Vester (see color photo below). Vester, incidentally, gained significant ties to Jerusalem’s American Colony after Continue reading

Posted in American Colony, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, JERUSALEM, Jerusalem Places, Modern History, Palestinians, Politics, U.S. Foreign Policy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

With Nod from U.S., Netanyahu Expels Multinational Observers from Troubled Hebron

The observer mission in Hebron acted as a restraint on the settlers’ worst excesses. Now that has come to an end.

Hebron school escorts

An Israeli soldier (L) stands guard as members of the Palestinian Youth Against Settlements (YAS) activists escort children on their way to school in the occupied West Bank town of Hebron on February 10, 2019 (AFP Photo/HAZEM BADER)


You might imagine that a report by a multinational observer force documenting a 20-year reign of terror by Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers against Palestinians, in a city under occupation, would provoke condemnation from European and US politicians.

But you would be wrong. The leaking in December of the report on conditions in the city of Hebron, home to 200,000 Palestinians, barely caused a ripple.

About 40,000 separate cases of abuse had been quietly recorded since 1997 by dozens of monitors from Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey. Some incidents constituted war crimes.

Exposure of the confidential report has now provided the pretext for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to expel the international observers. He shuttered their mission in Hebron this month, in apparent violation of Israel’s obligations under the 25-year-old Oslo peace accords.

Israel hopes once again to draw a veil over its violent colonisation of the heart of the West Bank’s largest Palestinian city. The process of clearing tens of thousands of inhabitants from central Hebron is already well advanced.

Any chance of rousing the international community into even minimal protest was stamped out by the US last week. It blocked Continue reading

Posted in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Occupied Territories, Palestinians, The Occupation, U.S. Foreign Policy, West Bank | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment