Photo: Gil Yohanan
Newly appointed minister Tartman
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Racist minister just what we need

Tourism minister who carries firearm, holds racist views fitting for current-day Israel

It is difficult to ignore the bad taste associated with the appointment of Esterina Tartman to the post of Israel's tourism minister. This representative post, whose objective is to advance tourism and Israel's image in the world, is being awarded, of all people, to Knesset Member Tartman, who holds racist views that justify the occupation and back the expulsion of Arab Israelis from the country.


The State of Israel, which in wake of the regional conflict and violence has been off the global tourism map for a while now, has now suffered yet another harsh public relations blow after choosing the most radical and blatant element in the National Union for the post of tourism minister.


In a world where image is sometimes more important than substances, the State is entrusting its entry gate at the hands of a minister who holds extremist rightist views that are perceived in the world and many parts of the country as illegitimate and deserving of condemnation.


Tartman of all people, who responded decisively to the appointment of Arab Minister Majadele and declared that "we must eradicate the affliction within us", while stating that the appointment of an Arab minister is akin to "taking an ax to the tree trunk known as Zionism and a Jewish State" – gets to head the national battle for attracting tourists and boosting Israel's image abroad.


Sophisticated way of telling truth

It is easy to guess that the next convention where the new minister represents Israel would not see discussion of the tourist attractions or vacation packages offered to potential tourists – instead, difficult questions will be raised regarding Israeli democracy, the Arab minority's status, and the problem of racism in Israeli society.


The Tourism Ministry will also need to shelve the marketing plans aimed at blurring the conflict and political situation in the country and marketing the State of Israel as a safe and exciting tourist attraction. Instead, Ministry officials will now have to work hard in order to explain who the new minister is and how her political views are supposed to coexist with the democratic norms accepted across the globe.


Moreover, instead of presenting the country to the potential tourist as a place which does not put visitors in danger, Israel chose to appoint a tourism minister who regularly carries a firearm and does not hide it from the public or media. What is the message conveyed by a tourism minister who chooses to walk around armed at all times in her own country? What is the message conveyed by the State of Israel when it places one of the most radical and outrageous figures in Israeli politics at the head of the tourism marketing campaign?


Yet maybe Tartman's appointment could serve as some kind of full disclosure required for 2007 Israel; a sophisticated way of telling the truth to ourselves and the world: We are an occupying country where racist positions are acceptable and even enjoy proper representation in the government and Knesset; a country whose citizens carry firearms regularly and believe that there is no room for Arabs here.


Perhaps Tartman's appointment portrays the face of the country in the most accurate and clearest manner.


The writer is Peace Now's secretary general


פרסום ראשון: 02.26.07, 17:47
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