By Kaamil Ahmed
JERUSALEM (AA): The presumed birthplace of Jesus and a shrine to Moses are two of the West Bank religious sites featured in a promotional video released by the Israeli military that has drawn Palestinian ire for failing to mention the areas’ native Palestinian inhabitants.
Both sites fall under “Area A”, according to the 1993 Oslo Accord, which technically puts them under full Palestinian control.
But Palestinians on social media say they are not mentioned at all in the video, which refers to the Israeli-occupied West Bank merely as “Judea and Samaria”.
The video, released Saturday by Coordination in Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli military authority, encourages tourists to visit the West Bank, emphasizing the role tourism plays in the region’s economy.
It has been criticized, however, for ignoring the fact that the sites would fall within the boundaries of a sought-for Palestinian state, according to a proposed “two-state solution”.
“Whatever Israel claims, it’s a violation not just of international law but also of decency,” Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s negotiations department, told Anadolu Agency.
“We haven’t asked Israel to promote Palestine,” Eid said. “We simply ask for the right to govern our country ourselves.”
He accused Israel’s tourism department of making similar videos in the past that depict Palestinian sites as Israeli ones, but said he did not think these would affect the opinions of foreign visitors.
“A major difference between Israel and Palestine is that most of the sites they refer to are part of our [i.e., Palestinians’] social fabric,” he said.
“I’m not saying no one is going to buy into this cheap propaganda they’re promoting,” Eid added. “I’m just saying the facts of the matter are much stronger.”
According to a PLO report published in March, initial hopes that the Oslo Accord would serve to boost tourism in the region — by allowing Palestinian and Israeli authorities to coexist — have not come to pass.
This, the report asserted, was largely due to ongoing restrictions on Palestinian movement and access to resources in the two-thirds of the occupied West Bank that remain under Israeli control according to the agreement’s terms.
COGAT officials, meanwhile, were not available to comment on the issue.
[Archive photo: Al-Aqsa mosque occupied by Israeli soldiers. Photographer: Muammar Awad/AA]