The Gaza flotilla and the flytilla may have been failures, but they were also missed opportunities for Israel. It’s no secret that a portion of Israel’s tourist trade comes from “protest tourism” – philosophy students and poetry Ph.D.s who want a chance to visit the Holy Land, throw some rocks at a soldier and have their pictures taken with AK-47-wielding terrorists. And it’s time the Israeli tourist industry took their business seriously.
Rather than profiling them and giving them the heave ho at the airport, why not develop special tourism packages catering to their needs? Imagine the possibilities:
The Rachel Corrie Experience: You’re angry at your parents. You’re angry at the world. You’re still angry at Bush. One time you saw a PBS documentary on Gaza and you said, “Man, are those people angry. But in a really deep and spiritual way.”
Pack your hemp sandals, your $259 sunglasses and get ready to fill your Flickr account with photos of underprivileged children.
Take off from San Francisco International Airport in a remodeled Tupolev Tu-114 aircraft that smells like gasoline and cow manure. As your body tries to decide whether it should pass out from the fumes or throw up from the turbulence, you will relish knowing you have left behind your comfortable life and will soon experience the agony of being in the Third World.
You land at Ben Gurion Airport, where you will be encouraged to yell “Power to the People” slogans at customs officials who will pretend not to understand what you are saying. If you cannot think of anything to yell, a booklet of slogans by a committee that includes Noam Chomsky, Tony Kushner and Norman Finkelstein will be provided for you.
Your accommodations will be a half-collapsed house with an Israeli bulldozer outside. With six to a room, your job will be to prevent the bulldozer from knocking over the house. At unpredictable times during the night the bulldozer will start up, and then you will be expected to run out of the house, screaming and waving your hands while shouting political slogans at it. The bulldozer will then usually stop. If it does not, you will be expected to lie in the mud while contemplating the geopolitics of the whole thing.
Sometime during the night, men will come through the tunnels in the house carrying mortar rounds and IEDs. You will be given 15 minutes to pose for pictures with them. These will look really good on your Facebook page, and your friends who went skiing or to build homes in Africa will be really jealous.
After three days of this, all while drinking stale water and eating old pita, you will be able to say you participated in the revolutionary struggle against Zionism. You may even get a Ph.D. thesis out of this, or at least a foreign correspondent post with Time magazine, which means you will be able to do this sort of thing full time. And even get paid for it.
The Alice Walker Excursion: You are a very deep person. People tell you this all the time, even when you don’t prompt them. Often you wish you’d been born earlier so that you could have participated in the great protest movements of the past.
In your deepest self you hate Israel, Coca Cola, nuclear power, country music, organized religion, people who don’t recycle, and Republicans, in no particular order.
You leave on a boat from somewhere. Probably Mexico. Maybe Turkey. It’s still too early to tell. The boat will not be very good. It will lack a toilet. Occasionally you will have to row. On this cruise you will rub shoulders with authors like Alice Walker and Henning Mankell. If you are not abducted by Somali pirates, you should be approaching the coast of Gaza in 6-8 weeks. Possibly more if you took a wrong turn around Australia or Atlantis.
If your captain is not excessively stoned, he will successfully run the boat aground on the Gaza coast. You will be given one hour to pose for photographs with authentic Hamas terrorists and even hold their weapons. If you do not yet have a keffiyah, one will be provided for you.
After this, you will be arrested by the authorities for illegal entry. You will be given 15 minutes to be photographed struggling with them in heroic poses. If your poses are not heroic, it’s your own fault.