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Apr-18-2012 19:22printcomments

World Nations Should Issue a Travel Warning to Israel

It is not the one who threatens but rather the one who doubts the existence of the threat who is the real danger.

(TEL AVIV Ha'aretz) - The skilled attack by Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner on a blond Danish peace activist in a kaffiyeh was spectacular. The senior officer's two agitated arms grasped the M-16 rifle as if it was an indivisible part of his body, and with an instinctive movement that might be expected from someone whose life was being threatened, landed it in the face of the person who dared to look him in the eye.

What luck that the belligerent Viking toppled over, thereby signaling his defeat. A recognized sign in the jungle. The frightened officer let him be. What a shame! Had he continued his assault, this could have been an excellent kill scene for a new series in National Geographic. Perhaps under the title "Annihilation."

On the face of it, this is a political story in which a group of pro-Palestinian peace activists tries to convince an occupying power to behave in decent fashion toward those occupied. But there is nothing political here. When a country behaves as if it is a nature preserve where the species living in it feel they are in danger of extinction, it is a simple anthropological story.

Anyone who wants to visit a gorilla preserve in Uganda, for example, knows what the restrictions are. The visitor must provide a certificate showing that he is not sick, and curious tourists are permitted only to visit in small groups and must leave the preserve in less than 24 hours. Tourists who go to the nature preserves in Tanzania know that it is forbidden to leave their vehicles, to throw food in the direction of the animals or get close to them. Anyone who kills a white polar bear in the snow fields will be brought to trial. There are clear, internationally recognized rules that define which species are threatened and how to preserve them.

Israel is a dangerous preserve and responsible nations should have issued a travel warning for this country long ago, or at least published a detailed guide of what is permitted or forbidden to do here. Which words or sentences induce a warning growl. A kind of dictionary for tourists in which terms such as "fly-in," "flotilla," "Palestinian state," "illegal outposts," "apartheid," "racism," "High Court of Justice," and of course, "occupation" will be underlined in bold red.

The guidebook would explain what is likely to cause Israel to bite and which sites the tourist is advised to avoid; where it is permitted for males and females to stay together and where mixed groups may attract stone-throwing; what response a red kaffiyeh around the neck is likely to evince; and what dangers someone wearing red, black and green clothes could face.

This is not an extraordinary recommendation. Someone who wants to visit Somalia, Afghanistan, Algeria, Chechnya or Sudan, or merely to go on a safari, knows what he has to wear and what he cannot say.

A threatened preserve like Israel is not meant for everyone at all times. When it was still a small country defined by a Green Line, it invited the whole world to come and visit. But when it grew fat and expanded its living space, it became more threatened and more frightened, and it has designated in lists drawn up in advance who is forbidden to enter its territory. The lists include not only wanted men who plan to carry out terror attacks, but also activists in human rights organizations, at least one German author and politicians who are not prepared to sing in the choir. The lists also include recommendations about who should not waste their money on airplane tickets - for example, a tourist whose name implies Arab or Muslim origin. It is possible that soon, new and much shorter lists will be issued bearing the names only of those who are permitted to visit the preserve.

This is how Israel is turning itself into an enclave of nationalist fundamentalism in which the covenant between its citizens (the Jewish ones, of course ) is not based on equality or shared values but on the ceaseless marking of its borders with the outside world. This is an enclave which does not feed on a sense of victimization - though that is certainly a national value - but rather on a threat, the impact of which is understood only by denizens of the enclave.

Therefore it is not the one who threatens but rather the one who doubts the existence of the threat who is the real danger. It is not the Palestinians who threaten to establish a state but rather the people who think a Palestinian state is not a threat who violate the borders of the enclave.

This is the kind of person who poses the existential danger so he is the one who gets whacked in the face, no matter if he is a Danish or Israeli citizen.

Special thanks to Ha'aretz

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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