Rachel Shabi of the Guardian writes sympathetically about Palestinian girls that are being taken to the beach by Israeli women. As nice as this may sound, this is another article about Israel/Palestine that is not inaccurate but delves too much on human interest without highlighting or even attempting to explain any of the backgrounds of Middle Eastern politics.
The article and the women involved argue that Israel’s refusal to grant entry into its territory (and in the context of the article especially to the beaches of Tel Aviv) to Palestinians living in the West Bank constitutes an illegality and a grave injustice.
Tellingly, no reasoning for this interpretation is given. – Probably because it would be very hard to argue that any state is obliged to grant access to the citizens of another state just because the territory of this other state doesn’t have a beach (or in this case only one in Gaza). I find it rather normal that any country would retain the right to control its borders and to decide who can enter when for which purpose. Not many countries in Europe would give a visa to Palestinians (or anybody else who falls under a visa requirement) if the sole purpose of the visit is to spend a day at the beach.
Countries requiring visas are nothing extraordinary, nor are landlocked countries or territories that don’t have access to the sea. Yet I don’t think that the Guardian would run an article about Armenians, Nepalis, Uzbeks or Serbians and their beach-less lives.
And if one wants to concentrate on the plight of the Palestinians in this context, I suggest to raise the question why Palestinians can’t easily travel to the beaches of the surrounding Arab countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, all countries with beaches on the Mediterranean or the Red Sea. But this would have raised the far more complex question of boastful Arab solidarity – and uncovered that they do nothing to back up the slogans.
Most Palestinians want their own state – and I think they should get it, pretty much along the current borders between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. But if you have your own state, you can’t argue that it is your natural right to enter the territory of another state without any visa. Especially because it was mostly Palestinian terrorists and their suicide attacks on civilians in mainland Israel that prompted Israel to strengthen its border security.
And I wonder how would Israelis would be welcomed if they wanted to spend a day at the beaches of Gaza…
There are serious problems with Palestinians’ rights, but making a day at the beach an issue of human rights is trivialising both Palestinians and human rights.
As a frequent traveller to both Israel and the West Bank, I do however agree that Israel’s beaches are among the most beautiful in the Mediterranean and that Israelis should be less fearful about travelling to the West Bank. Despite sporadic terror attacks, it is usually not dangerous. At least I have been lucky so far.