Guardian Travel publishes article by Sarah Irving, former ISM activist

It’s getting near that time of year when people in the UK, fed up of their dank, grey winter, begin flicking through holiday brochures and the travel supplements in their weekend newspapers, dreaming of a warm and exciting destination for their summer break.

Sarah Irving - Former ISM activist

As may be expected, the Guardian’s travel section also contains articles on a variety of tempting destinations. Las Vegas, Spain, Turkey and the Red Sea to to name but a few, and this week there’s also an article by the author of the newly published Bradt Guide to Palestine, Sarah Irving, on its top 10 attractions.

The vast majority of readers of the article will of course be unfamiliar with the region and may therefore not pick up onIrving’s distinctly partisan style or the inaccuracies in her article and, one can only assume, her book.

Already in her introduction,Irving makes much of potential travel difficulties visited on the unsuspecting voyager by the Israeli authorities. Of course she makes no mention of why inconveniences such as checkpoints or airport security checks may be necessary in order to protect the lives of tourists just as much as Israelis.

Irving then proceeds to give her recommendations for places to visit. Sebastia becomes a site of Hellenic watchtowers, ruined Samaritan palaces and crumbling Byzantine churches” along with “Islamic shrines”: no mention of the history before the relatively late naming of the town Sebastia after Augustus Caesar, which includes the archeological excavations of the royal citadel and kings of Israel, including Ahab, between 880 and 721 BCE.

Next, Irving moves on to the Dome of the Rock which, despite this being a guide to Palestine, is of course situated in Israel. The only clue the reader might get about that fact is her claim that the site is “[u]sually closed for Islamic holidays, Jewish holidays, Fri/Sat (except Muslim worshippers), and whenever the Israeli authorities consider there to be a security risk.”  Ah, those unpredictable and hysterical Israelis again!

Northwards to Jenin and Irving cannot resist yet another context-free remark: “this bustling town, sadly better known for the Israeli army’s massive 2002 attack on the refugee camp.” Of course one does have to admit that Jenin’s other title as terror capital of the Palestinian Territories is somewhat less likely to draw in the crowds.

Next Irving manages to turn Abraham, after whom a hiking trail is named, into “the Prophet Abraham”, and to skip meticulously over any Jewish history in Taibeh or Jericholiable to distract the reader, before arriving in Hevron. The tomb of Abraham and the other patriarchs at Machpela is not recommended to visitors – presumably because that would not fit into the narrative – but she does manage the by now obligatory mention of wicked Israelis. “Many [shops] have closed, shut by Israeli military order to protect the settlers who have occupied parts of the city, or because the settler threat makes business unviable.”  In fact, rather than having ‘occupied’ it, the Jews living in Hevron do so under the terms of the Oslo Accords signed by the representatives of the Palestinian people.

Irving’s attention turns next to Acco – or as she for some reason calls it ‘Akka’. Acco is of course situated in Israel, but Irving gets round this by informing her readers that “The new Bradt guide also covers areas of Israel that are home to large numbers of Palestinians and where their culture survives. The Arabs living in Acco are Israeli Arabs – who chose not to leave Israel during the War of Independence in 1948.

It is clear that far from being a ‘travel guide’, Irving’s book is actually a political polemic.

Why Bradt should have selected such an obviously biased author to write a guide which appears to attempt to erase Jewish history from Judea and Samaria (unless in the form of context-free references to contemporary security issues) is a mystery.

A quick Google search would have shown Bradt’s editors that Sarah Irving has a very rich history of her own.

In 2002 she visited the Palestinian territories as a member of the International Solidarity Movement. She writes forElectronic Intifada‘  (among others) and also maintains her own fiercely anti-Israel blog. She has co-written a book (promoted by the ISM) about Operation Cast Lead which she describes as “the massive Israeli invasion in December 2008 and January 2009, when 1,400 people were killed, mainly children and other civilians.”

As is well known, Hamas itself has admitted that over half the casualties were members of its own terrorist organization which had fired rockets at Israeli civilians for years before the Israeli military operation.

Currently Irving is writing a biography of the hijacker and terrorist Leila Khaled, also to be published by the same Pluto Press which includes Gilad Atzmon in its stable of reviewers, and runs a blog dedicated to Leila Khaled. 

Irving’s ‘understanding’ and ‘expertise’ on the Middle Eastis summed up here in her own wors:

“On a wider political scale, it’s impossible to disconnect the West’s support for Israel and our governments’ apparent blindness to Israeli human rights abuses and also to the massive theft of land for settlements, the discrimination meted out to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Palestinian citizens of Israel, from issues like control of the Middle East and its oil, racism and anti-Islamism, and global hatred and hostility which feed religious fundamentalism – Christian and Jewish as well as Islamic.”

Obviously, this article byIrving calls into question the reliability of this particular Bradt travel guide as far as genuine tourists are concerned but it also prompts one to wonder if their previous publications also cater exclusively to the terror-chic market.

That the Guardian’s travel editor apparently saw nothing unprofessional in publishing an article and promoting so blatantly faulted a book by a terrorist-supporting writer indicates that readers need to regard its travel recommendations with considerable caution.

(h/t Infinity)