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The New Loyalty Oath

Bill would ban East J’lem Arabs from leading tours

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The Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem.(Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

“Loyalty” is the mot juste in Israel these days: After the controversial bill requiring non-Jewish immigrants (and then all immigrants) to declare loyalty to a Jewish and democratic state was approved by the cabinet earlier this month, a new bill was brought before the Knesset last week that would require that all tourist guides leading tours of Jerusalem be themselves Israeli citizens who have “institutional loyalty” to Israel.

The proposal, initiated by Gideon Ezra of Kadima and supported by a multipartisan slate of legislators, does not mince words. “Some of the residents of Israel, like those in East Jerusalem, often have ‘dual loyalty,’ since they vote in elections of the Palestinian Authority,” it declares. “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.” There’s that word, loyalty.

Apart from the obvious, gaping problems—what, for example, is “the national Israeli viewpoint,” and how does one measure “institutional loyalty” to the state?—Ezra’s proposal will have the concrete effect of causing more than 300 Israeli Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem to losen their jobs as licensed tour guides.

Other countries that require state-appointed, ideologically approved travel guides include North Korea.

MKs Seek Ban on East Jerusalem Arabs Guiding in the City [Haaretz]
Related: Under Oath [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Bibi Moderates on Loyalty Oath Bill
Bibi Floats Oath Quid for Freeze Quo

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Just to give a more balanced picture you might want to add that a prominent Israeli Arab activist admitted yesterday in court that he spied for Hizbollah. This is the latest of many such cases including Azmi Bashara, a sitting MK who was also a Hizbollah spy and fled the country to avoid prosecution. In other words the issues of loyal and betrayal in the Arab Israeli community are real issues and not some excuse to persecute them.

A friend of mine visited Israel on an Elderhostel tour. She said the (Arab) guide did nothing but spew hatred for Israel and paint a very slanted picture for those on her tour — most of whom were not Jewish. While I do not believe in censorship, neither should this be allowed to continue.

Jerome says:

Tourists are not blank slates. Most probably come with preconceived ideas of Israel and those that don’t (it is hoped) have critical faculties that will allow them to judge the information that they are given.

Let tourists choose whomever they want to be their tourguides. If tourists choose someone who spews hatred, lets hope that it reflects on the guide more so than the place he is purporting to explain.

The proposal explained above is really beneath Israel.

Oh honestly. The best tour I’ve ever had in Jerusalem was with an Israeli Arab whose family had lived in the city for several generations. We saw things that we might not otherwise, including the Al-Aqsa mosque. We gained a useful perspective and no hateful words were exchanged. On the other hand, a Jewish cab driver in Tel Aviv told us not to waste our time going to Ben Gurion’s house because he wasn’t worth spending time on – we should go to the Western Wall instead. Zionism – he told us in Hebrew – wasn’t so good.

George says:

When I was in Greece, I’ve learned that all tourist buses there MUST have a Greek guide, even if they have a foreign guide already.

I ran across this information earlier today while in the office. Very helpful. Sent the url to myself and will almost certainly bookmark it once I go back home.

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The New Loyalty Oath

Bill would ban East J’lem Arabs from leading tours

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