“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”
“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”
(‘A Christmas Carol’ – Charles Dickens, 1843)
With Harriet Sherwood apparently otherwise engaged, the Guardian’s coverage of Israel during the Christian festive season has been placed in the hands of Ana Carbajosa. Not quite full of the spirit of seasonal goodwill, Carbajosa has so far managed to make flimsy analogies on CiF between biblical shepherds and contemporary sheep farmers and in the Boxing Day edition of the Observer, profile the tourist industry in Bethlehem.
In order for Guardian readers to be able to enjoy their mince pies and brandy butter with a clear conscience, secure in the knowledge that despite their own comforts, they remain befittingly concerned about the lot of others less fortunate than themselves, Carbajosa makes sure that her readers know all about various Palestinian misfortunes, and of course, who is to blame for them. Her answer to the question of culpability is as inevitable as the annual re-runs of sugary Hollywood blockbusters on Christmas afternoon TV.
Of course more than at any other time of the year Christmas is a season of tradition. People crave the known and the familiar – no matter how predictable – and that includes over-cooked Brussel sprouts and Auntie Hilda having a bit too much Irish Cream liqueur and snoring in front of something starring Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant. Even so, how refreshing it would have been if Carbajosa had forgone the usual stereotypes and clichés and actually tried to inform her readers as to why tourism to Bethlehem took a bit of a nose dive in recent years.
“But not so long ago Bethlehem was a city under curfew, where only Israeli soldiers and armed Palestinian militants dared take to the streets. Where only humanitarian workers and the most committed pilgrims had the courage to venture.”
Ah; the ubiquitous Guardian ‘militant’ – code word for terrorists the far Left finds rather huggable. Carbajosa of course scrupulously avoids all mention of the reasons for the curfew she invokes. No reminder of Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians throughout the second Intifada, no reference to terrorists taking over Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, not a word about the murder of foreign nationals.
She avoids addressing the reasons for the construction of the anti-terrorist fence, the fact that Israelis are forbidden to enter PA administered areas due to the murder of several who did, or the fact that neighbouring countries may under the current circumstances be justifiably anxious regarding security arrangements at a PA controlled airport which Carbajosa apparently thinks should exist. Neither does Carbajosa appear to be capable of understanding that foreign investment in the infrastructure of the PA’s tourist industry might be a little more forthcoming were the Palestinian Authority to renounce terrorism and work towards establishing a peaceful state with a viable economy or that Christian tourism to PA controlled areas could well be enhanced if persecution of Christians there were to cease.
However, Carbajosa cannot apparently bring herself to apportion any responsibility to the Palestinians themselves for the downturn in recent years of their tourist industry: the quantum leap required to understand that starting Intifadas or stabbing tourists is not conducive to raking in foreign holiday Dollars and Euros is obviously deemed by her to be too much for the average Guardian reader to swallow along with his leftover turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich. Instead, she opts for the tried and trusted default mechanism of blaming Israel and Israel alone.
Interestingly though, whilst lauding the radical chic ‘resistance tourism’ project of the Alternative Tourism Group, Carbajosa fails to mention that Rami Kassis, the director of this political organisation masking as a travel agent (and with links to the ISM) used several of the preposterous claims repeated in her article in his letter earlier this year to the OECD, by means of which he tried to prevent the holding of a conference on tourism in Jerusalem. In fact Kassis has been pedalling such wares for quite a while by promoting falsehoods such as claims that the Israelis deliberately try to undermine Palestinian tourism by questioning visitors at the airport, or the implication that the Paradise Hotel in Bethlehem was “burnt” by Israeli troops when in fact the fires were started by Palestinian terrorists throwing Molotov cocktails at soldiers inside the hotel.
It is a disservice to journalism that Carbajosa obviously does not have the spine to present the situation as it actually is instead of blindly repeating political propaganda based on a potent combination of an Eastern imagination and an enhanced sense of victimhood. But then again, she wouldn’t want to be the one to ruin the Guardian and Observer readers’ holiday season by steering them away from the traditional and familiar caricature of the Middle East they know and love, complete with poor, blameless Palestinians and all-powerful, vindictive Israelis, would she? To do that, of course, would be bad for her business.
Accordingly, even the good news of a bumper year for tourism in Bethlehem prompts nothing more than a Bah! Humbug! from the Guardian’s latest propaganda pen.