Cosmetics, carrots and palaces

By EA Paul, Jordan Valley.

Iyad Hamdan is the Director of Tourism for Jericho in occupied Palestine’s historic Jordan Valley, and he is desperate for more foreign tourists to stay in Palestine and see the wonderful Palestinian tourism attractions.

030116. Jericho, Jordan Valley, Occupied Palestinian Territory. Iyad Handam, Director of Tourism. Photo EAPPI (P Longden)

Iyad Hamdan, Jericho’s Director of Tourism [Photo: EAPPI/P.Longden]

Unfortunately, the Israeli military occupation of Palestine means that for the moment his wish for more tourists and an economic upturn is just a dream.

“Tourism can help to make peace…but Israel does not want the Palestinian tourism industry to thrive. The first issue is the border, we have no airports and Israel can prevent tourists from coming here. Israel controls everything relating to Palestinian tourism.”

Jericho, the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley have world class tourist attractions, including Hisham’s Palace, an important early Islamic archaeological site. But very few tourists stay in Palestine – the majority visit on day trips from Israel. According to the Jericho Tourist Information Centre, only 438 tourists were recorded as visiting Jericho in January 2016.

INSERT PHOTO - HISHAMS PALACE (LONG SHOT) 130116. Hishams Palace, Jericho, Jordan Valley, Occupied Palestinian Territory. Tourist attraction 5km north of Jericho. Photo EAPPI (P Longden)

Hisham’s Palace, 5 km north of Jericho [Photo: EAPPI/P.Longden]

INSERT PHOTO - TOURISM EXPERT AND EAs 030116. 130116. Hishams Palace. Jericho, Jordan Valley. Occupied Palestinian Territory. Tourism staff and EAPPI team meeting. Photo EAPPI (P Longden)

EAs meeting with staff at Hisham’s Palace near Jericho [Photo: EAPPI/P.Longden]

Israel has been militarily occupying the Jordan Valley and the rest of the West Bank since 1967, and with no near end in sight Palestinians feel unable to invest in their tourism infrastructure. For example, there are only two hotels in Jericho despite it being the oldest inhabited city on Earth with a wealth of archaeological sites, an idyllic location, and an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Tourism is not the only Palestinian sector that suffers due to the Israeli occupation. Valuable agriculture and mineral resources are also under Israeli control, and these resources are often used by Israel for its own benefit, in contravention of international law.

“…the [mountain] aquifer [in the West Bank] supplies over a third of our water…it’s no accident that the settlements are where they are”  – Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister.

INSERT - PHOTO OF LEMONS 060116. Al Jifflik. North Jordan Valley, Occupied Palestinian Territory. Lemon tree, valuable crop in Palestine. Photo EAPPI (P Longden)

Lemons, a valuable crop, growing in Al Jifflik in the north Jordan Valley [Photo: EAPPI/P Longden]

Jericho, the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea are rich in mineral and agricultural resources. The World Bank estimates that US$3.4 billion per year could be added to the Palestinian economy if Palestinians themselves had control of their own resources such as Dead Sea beauty treatments (a global industry), tourism and leisure, fruit and vegetables.

As a military occupying power, Israel is mandated under Article 43 of the Hague Regulations to restrict itself to military activity and not use Palestinian natural resources for its own benefit.

In reality, Israel exercises total control of Palestinian agricultural and tourism resources in Area C (areas under full Israeli security control) and it surrounds Palestinian areas (A and B), thereby restricting Palestinian economic development.

Israel asserts that its actions are lawful, in the interests of its own security and that international law and United Nations rulings do not apply in occupied Palestine.

150116. Israeli earth mound and agricultural gate

Israeli earth mounds and agricultural gates restricting access to Palestinian farmland in the Jordan Valley. The journey, which once took 18 seconds, now takes over an hour [Photo: EAPPI/P.Longden]

The World Bank highlights the economic injustice of the Israeli military occupation and suggests a bleak future for Palestine if the occupation continues.

“…without the ability to conduct purposeful economic activity in Area C, the economic space of the West Bank will remain crowded and stunted, inhabited by people whose daily interactions with the State of Israel are characterized by inconvenience, expense, and frustration”.

The Governor of Jericho monitors Israeli activity in the Jordan Valley.

“The Israelis are clearing Palestinians from a corridor across the Jordan Valley for their own [economic] benefit and to join up the [illegal] Israeli settlements…The Israeli occupation has taken the hope and future of some of our young people…some are desperate…but we will stand fast”.

Governor Majed Al-Fityani. Photo EAPPI (P Longden)

Jericho Governor Majed Al-Fityani [Photo: EAPPI/P Longden]

To people in the UK, Palestinian cosmetics, carrots and palaces are a distant and remote issue. However, Britain and many other countries provide financial aid to help Palestine survive and keep it stable. In 2014 alone, Palestine received £66 million in UK aid according to the UN.

The Israeli economic occupation of Palestine has an impact on the UK.

It is time for Palestine to be economically self-sufficient.

It is time to end the occupation.

Please write to your MP (in the UK) or TD (in Ireland) and ask them what they are doing to help end the occupation.