Tourism in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is an extremely political issue. The narrative given by tour guides shapes the views of visitors to the area, and the Israeli narrative is far different from the Palestinian one. So when Israeli Knesset (Parliament) members propose a plan to ban Palestinian tour guides from Jerusalem, Palestinians say that what this means is the all-out negation of the Palestinian narrative of the history of the region.In the last year, Israeli tour guides have slowly taken over the guidance of tours in the West Bank, which has always been the purview of Palestinian guides. Now, that takeover has extended to Jerusalem, thus ridding the tourism industry of the last of the tour guides who provide a different perspective from the Israeli one.
A group of Israeli Knesset members led by Gideon Ezra have called on the Israeli government to de-commission all Palestinians licensed to lead tours in Jerusalem, saying that they do not represent Israel’s interests in their tours and are “hostile to the state of Israel”. The bill, if passed, would prevent all Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from being tour guides, as it includes a clause that all tour guides would be required to be citizens of Israel.
The text of the bill reads in part, “Some of the residents of Israel, like those in East Jerusalem, often have ‘dual loyalty,’ since they vote in elections of the Palestinian Authority. These residents often present anti-Israeli positions to groups of tourists that they guide. To ensure foreign tourists are exposed to the national Israeli viewpoint, we suggest ruling that travel agencies, and any organization providing tours for foreign tourists, ensure that the groups are accompanied by a tour guide who is an Israeli citizen and has institutional loyalty to the State of Israel.’
The indigenous Palestinian population of the city are not considered to be citizens under Israeli law. They are ‘residents’ and Israeli authorities issue them Jerusalem residency cards, which are often revoked if a Jerusalem resident is found to have left the city for any significant period of time.
The ‘Jerusalem residency’ laws are one of a number of methods used by the Israeli government to rid the city of its indigenous Palestinian inhabitants.