The letter, drafted by local church officials in Goa, was sent to churches in Jerusalem and in the Palestinian authority in the aims of showing solidarity with Arab Christians living in Israel and in the territories.
In the letter, Goa church officials say they are “horrified” by Israel’s “occupation policy” and its results, while vowing to no longer remain silent on the issue.
The message takes on anti-Semitic undertones when church officials refer to a “study” they undertook some three years ago into the behavior of Israeli backpackers who arrive in Goa in order to “forget and repress their military service.”
The letter claims that many of these Israeli tourists have lost their humanity and have become their own victims as result of the brutality of Israel’s “illegal occupation.”
According to the study, Israelis lose their minds because of the need to kill during their military service, prompting the government to send them on relaxing vacations to sites such as Goa. Israelis are a nuisance to their surroundings and their aggressive character drives away other tourists, the study says.
'Smells like anti-Semitism'
Israeli tourists in Goa said they were very disappointed by the letter, which they claimed contradicts the good relationship between backpackers and the local population.
“Those who wrote it are simply detached from what really goes on here,” said Itamar Rafel, who is currently in India. “After all, the Indians make a good living from our tourism, give their stores Hebrew names, and are very hospitable.”
Another Israeli tourism, Rotem Natan, said: “Obviously there are Israelis who behave impolitely, but there are also Americans like that. Why are they focusing on us? It smells like anti-Semitism.”
Responding to the report, Goa’s tourism minister said he was surprised by the harsh accusations made in the letter, noting this it clearly does not mark official government policy. Goa’s residents have no ill feelings towards Israeli tourists, who should feel comfortable in the area, he said, adding that he will further look into the contents of the letter.
As opposed to other states in India, the Church plays a key role in Goa’s daily life and local politics. About one-third of the area’s residents are Catholics who converted under Portuguese rule.
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