The long demolishing arm of Zionism: A reflection on the incident of the hostel on the Uruguayan coast 


This text, written as an opinion column and shorter, was rejected by the daily newspaper (after two days of discussion) and also by the weekly Brecha (for the first time in seven years of continuous collaboration).


By María Landi, on her blog María en Palestina.


Suddenly the summer tranquility of a country swollen by extreme heat shook, and the social temperature rose even more. The news went viral in the media and social networks: the owner of a hostel in the resort Valizas canceled the reservation of a couple of Israelis claiming that he does not agree with the policies of his country, and that he has had terrible experiences in the past with Israeli tourists


Valizas, Uruguay. 


As expected, since the news became known, accusations of anti-Semitism rained down on him, coming not only from the Zionist institutions, but also from politicians, media and public opinion. A deputy presented a judicial complaint, the government announced that it would join the Honorary Commission against Racism, Xenophobia and any other form of Discrimination (which monitors compliance with the law of the same name). And to top it off, the mayor of Rocha announced that the hostel would be demolished [1] -with all the symbolic burden of the demolition action in the Israel-Palestine context. There was not a single public voice in defense of the hostel owner [2] (except a statement from the Free Palestinian Committee), not even to qualify or put his decision in perspective.


Among all that is said and published in these days, it draws attention to everything that is NOT said or written. For starters, it is not said that 99 percent of Israeli society supports and defends the policies of their country - which are State policies, and not a government. In addition, there is talk of "Israeli tourists" generically and in the abstract, ignoring the great anecdotal burden that accompanies the term.


It is not said, for example, that Israeli tourists who frequent these types of establishments and spas have a very specific profile: they are mostly young ex-soldiers who go out to travel the world at the end of two or three years (depending on sex) of military service, and that have earned a terrible reputation throughout the five continents. Also in Valizas, where they arrive most every year, there is discomfort among merchants, residents and holidaymakers towards that tourist for their habitual behavior: arrogant, ill-mannered, aggressive.


A quick 'googleo' (in Spanish and especially in English) allows you to find immediately an infinity of articles about incidents between local communities and these tourists, from Cuzco to Bariloche, from Bolivia to India, as well as analyzes and debates about why Israeli tourists and ex-soldiers have such a bad reputation and are rejected even by tour operators and by members of the local Jewish community (who complain about the bad image they give of Israel and the work that gives them recompose it). In Chilean Patagonia (one of their favorite destinations) many were expelled for causing riots and fires in national parks. In Sacsayhuamán (Peru), more than 60 were arrested for stealing relics and desecrating the archaeological site with an illegal camp where they found garbage, drugs, alcohol and paint sprays. The behavior of Israeli tourists was even the subject of a forum on the website of the prestigious Lonely Planet tourist guide. That fame also extends among the personnel of the airlines that have to transport them in long transoceanic flights, supporting all kinds of insolence.


I recommend reading the article by the Chilean of Jewish origin André Jouffé: "Terrible behavior of Israeli tourists", where he mentions that hoteliers have begun to apply exclusion policies towards them to avoid the usual excesses and headaches. It is not for political or religious reasons, says Jouffe, and there are no complaints about Jewish tourists from other countries, but exclusively about Israel, as it says in another article. The different providers of tourist services agree on the bad education and aggressiveness of these young people.


What is needed -because there is no mention of this- is to connect these predatory and arrogant behaviors with other aspects of Israeli society: with the education they receive from school, with the impact on youth of a highly militarized culture (where violence is the breeding ground in which they grow up), with the price paid for maintaining for seven decades the longest colonial occupation in modern history [3] and a regime of discrimination [4] based on the superiority of the Jewish nation over other peoples; and about what these young people do during their long years of military service in the occupied territories. Many times it is a question of justifying those unacceptable behaviors abroad by saying that they are the product -or evasion- of the traumas caused by living in a country in permanent war.


To understand these phenomena and impacts, nothing better than listening to the (very few) critical voices within the Israeli society itself. The feminist organization New Profile, which works "for the demilitarization of Israeli society" [5] has for years been campaigning "Arms off the kitchen table". Because what sounds absurd in any country in the world, in Israel is a common image: weapons (large, automatic, war) are part of the everyday and domestic landscape. In public transport you have to dodge them to move down the corridor; in the playgrounds there are tanks and military vehicles to scale; school and high school students make military camps; the weapons are visible in the cafes, in the swimming pools, in the shopping centers; You can see guys doing jogging or hicking with the machine gun on their backs, always ready to be used when a danger appears -generally with an Arab face.


The academic Nurit Peled-Elhanan investigated for years the image of the Palestinians who present the Israeli textbooks [6] and concluded that it is a stereotyped and racist image, reduced to primitive and simplistic features, denying them all traces of humanity or reference to its cultural identity and its rich history in that land. The objective, says Peled, is to dehumanize the Palestinian population in order to present it as a problem or a danger to be eliminated. This forms the basis of prejudice that will allow them to act insensitively during military service. At 18 they are given a machine gun and sent to the occupied territories to fulfill the mission for which they have been prepared from kindergarten.


What Israeli soldiers do there exceeds the space of this column. Suffice it to say that for years Israel managed quite effectively to present itself to the West as little David defending himself against the mighty Arabian Goliath, and showing his survival in the midst of a region of hostile enemies as a divine miracle. This narrative is no longer sustainable, especially in times of citizen journalism and social networks that allow us to see in real time the summary execution of an unarmed Palestinian youth or the violent arrest of a child at the hands of a soldier, the bombing of a densely populated center populated, the demolition of a family home, a school or a miserable Bedouin village by bulldozers run by soldiers, or theft, vandalism and aggression of the settlers to a Palestinian community - under the protection of the occupation army.


Until a few years ago, these violations were documented and reported by victims, human rights organizations and international observers; but for some time, also an organization of former soldiers called "Breaking the silence" began to collect and spread testimonies of the atrocities committed during military service in the occupied territories. The government and the majority of Israeli society consider them unpatriotic for spreading these testimonies; but nobody has been able to deny them.


All that violence and daily abuse [7] is explained by a combination of two factors: the dehumanization of the Palestinian population and the culture of victimization that Zionism has made the core of the Israeli identity. When you see yourself as the victim - and the only victim, besides - it is impossible to feel the least empathy towards other victims, and even less recognize that you are actually the victimizer, as explained by Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who lives in the West Bank from More than 20 years ago: "The concept of eternal victimization allows Israelis to live in denial about the violence they exercise daily on Palestinians and Palestinians. And they do not like to be told that someone has the right to resist that violence. "


Victimization is instilled from the earliest childhood. The objective is to create a population convinced that 'the whole world hates us' and therefore we must be on the warpath to 'defend' ourselves from enemies always willing to annihilate us. This is how aggression transforms into self-defense, and victimizer into victim. To understand the magnitude of this ideological and psychosocial mechanism, I recommend watching the Israeli documentary Yoav Shamir: "Defamation" [8]. The Jewish-American scholar Norman Finkelstein (son of Nazi survivors) calls this "pathological narcissism."


And since we are with Finkelstein, we can not finish without mentioning a term that has been used a lot following the Valizas incident: anti-Semitism. The author of the bestseller "The Holocaust Industry" accuses Zionism of making a political use of the Holocaust, and states that the purpose of the discourse on the 'new anti-Semitism' is to disqualify all critics of Israel as "anti-Semitic." Zionism knows well that the cause of hostility towards Israel in the world is not anti-Semitism, but the policies of that State against the Palestinian people. The irony, says Finkelstein, is that the Holocaust has become the main ideological weapon to launch wars of aggression.


This victim mentality would also explain Israel's treatment of visitors it considers suspicious of sympathizing with the Palestinian people. Every year hundreds of people of very different nationalities are denied entry to the country (it does not matter that it is actually to Palestine, because Israel controls all points of entry to the occupied territories), after submitting them to aggressive interrogations and vexatious revisions , with a purely racist criterion. Among the many testimonies of those who have lived the experience, a young woman said that when she complained about the invasive and violent review of an immigration officer, she replied: "Now she can understand how we felt in the concentration camps" [9]. Let's not talk about the fate of thousands of African refugees who arrive fleeing violence in their countries and are locked in a detention center (a real prison) in the Holon desert.


Just these days Israel announced that it would deport 40,000 to their countries of origin, regardless of the fate that awaits them.


Returning to these lands and the incident that originates this column [10], perhaps now you can look with another perspective the decision of the owner of a small family hostel in a corner of the coast Rochense that says: "In my house no." Maybe he does not want to expose his family or his guests to live episodes like the one he recounted: "One night, as part of a talk on international politics, as I did not agree with his perspective, an Israeli guest told me that he was trained and prepared to kill me in 15 seconds "[11]. It has nothing to do with being anti-Semitic, and we would do well to reject the spent blackmail that seeks to assimilate Judaism with Zionism, and anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel.


Perhaps the brave decisions of many people of conscience, multiplied throughout the world, will be able to exert effective pressure and send a clear message to the Israeli government, institutions and society: continuing to violate human rights comes at a price, and that price is being increasingly higher.


The Uruguayan Jewish community, and society in general, instead of condemning an incident that has no anti-Semitic motivation, should adopt a critical and firm stance towards the crimes of the State of Israel; and with the same zeal that they have shown to defend non-discrimination [12], to demand respect for international law and the rights of 12 million Palestinians and Palestinians.


That's what they're doing in the US and other countries, for example, the new Jewish generations, and are a source of hope to dream of a future of freedom, justice and equality for all the people who inhabit the historic land of Palestine.



[1] Because it was built without permission in the coastal strip; a reality that is repeated in several points of the coast of Rocha, and that is well known by the municipal authorities. If this incident did not occur, it would be unlikely that the demolition would be announced during the tourist season and without prior contact with the affected party.

[2] See the tone and focus of the daily newspaper (considered left).

[3] Since its creation in 1948, Israel has violated more UN resolutions and international treaties than any other country.

[4] There is no room to develop here the arguments that qualify this apartheid regime, but you can consult the reports of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (2009); of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (2011); of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) of the UN (2012); and of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia

Occidental (ESCWA) of the UN (2017); the latter withdrawn from the ESCWA website due to pressure from Israel.

[5] Since 2007, the Global Militarization Index considers Israel the most militarized country in the world.

[6] "Palestine in the school textbooks of Israel" (Canaan, Buenos Aires 2017). The original English version has the subtitle: "Ideology and propaganda".

[7] According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the main treaty of International Humanitarian Law that rules the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel, are war crimes that can be tried by the International Criminal Court.

[8] The film explores the notion of 'new anti-Semitism' and the groups of power that are committed to disseminating that fear. Shamir was able to infiltrate the ADL (Anti Defamation League) of the USA. to know what is profitable - and questionable - of that discourse. It also accompanies the trip of a high school group to Auschwitz to show how the Israeli youth is indoctrinated in the victimizing collective neurosis before joining the army.

[9] Israel recently published a blacklist of organizations whose members are banned from entering for defending Palestinian rights. Ironically, the list includes a Jewish organization and a Quaker who in 1947 received the Nobel Peace Prize for saving Jewish people from Nazi persecution.

[10] It is no coincidence that the news was first reported by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, dedicated to daily relieving even the most insignificant incidents of 'anti-Semitism' throughout the world.

[11] El País, 11/1/18.

[12] In the State of Israel there are more than 65 laws that discriminate against the Palestinian and non-Jewish population.

​​Valizas, Uruguay. Photo: Ricardo Figueredo