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27 Jul, 2014

Indian cultural tour operator calls for Israel boycott at travel shows

An Indian tour operator has initiated a call for a boycott of Israeli stands at international trade shows, starting with the World Travel Mart in London. The move means that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has entered the realm of global travel events and will almost certainly have a deep and lasting impact on their costs, content and participation levels.

In an email circulated last week to his list of global business associates, Mr Suddhabrata Deb, Director of Kolkata-based Living Roots Destination Management, a leading cultural tourism outfit in Bengal, said, “Israel is running tourism ads heavily in the EU: ‘Once you visit Israel, you will never be the same again’. We say rather “Once you visit Gaza, at least for an hour, you will never be the same again – if you are a human being”.

Mr Suddhabrata Deb

Mr Deb initiated a grouping called “India For Tourism Fraternity for Palestinians” after reading the following letter from a Norwegian doctor in Gaza: http://www.intifada-palestine.com/2014/07/letter-norwegian-doctor-gaza/.

He said, “Tourism Fraternity of Palestinians is a hurriedly formed forum by few socially conscious travel pros to extend solidarity to the Palestinians under Zionist onslaught. Incidentally I initiated it at Kolkata, gained supports from hundreds of my fraternity members within just one day, and the number is increasing. Now we are in process of formalizing this platform to a bigger shape, website & SMNs are coming up.”

He added, “Our social standing is not that abrupt. We campaigned at the time against the US attack on Iraq too. There are few people in this industry who still tour operators are equally liable to react to valid social issues.”

In his call for the Israel boycott Mr Deb said, “The Israeli butchers are slaughtering the Palestinians on Gaza strip with thorough ease, because they were trained to do so. They shamelessly dare to shed more and more bloods because they have some sponsors around the globe. And… yes! Today taking a cool seat means you vouch for the killers!

“Peoples from all walks of life are protesting. Tourism fraternity, why silent? Because our children are spared? Today when we are typing this appeal the death toll at Gaza strip went beyond 600! Wake up! Let the butchers face the rejection from everywhere.

“This is a campaign to keep our fraternity away from the Israel Tourism stand at the forthcoming WTM 2014. No assault! No offense! Just don’t go there. And tell your industry colleagues to do the same. Just let them feel the vacuity around them: “Everyone is boycotting us! And travel trade is no exception”!

Asked why only WTM London, Mr Deb said other shows are being worked on. “WTM is only a symbolic location; I’d unmask the so-called reformists like (names of a prominent UK tourism NGO and academic/consultant removed) further, who took a great effort to blacklist Myanmar few years back and now keeping themselves mum.”

Asked if he was prepared for the personal attacks and criticism sure to come from pro-Israeli groups, Mr Deb replied, “Indeed, we are ready to combat with the criticism and opposition, that’s what a social forum is meant for. Being fully aware of the consequences, yes, I will be at WTM. And let Yehovah give the Israelis some wisdom so that they don’t try to mess with me. Otherwise they would repent, not us.”

Mr Deb’s call is getting some traction.

One reader from Nepal wrote: “We support the cause… my signature.” A reader from Switzerland wrote: “Timely effort, we all are with you. Hope to meet you over WTM”

One tour operator from Bangladesh wrote: “Thanks for your timely initiative. We all should come forward and raise our voices against these uncivilized killing by the Israelis. I am very much with you guys and let me know how we can meet and protest and boycott them.”

Another reader from Switzerland wrote: “My support”. From UK: “We fully endorse this call”. From Bangladesh: “We are with you, we should do so”. From India: “Full support, we are circulating this.”

One reader from India wrote to Mr Deb: “I support the cause but with a small but important change. There should be equally strong condemnation of the rocket firing from Hamas. This is entirely my personal opinion.”

To which Mr Deb replied: “Should we criticize Martyr Bhagat Singh or Mastar-da Surya Sen (Indian independence movement fighters) for throwing bomb on the Britons while criticizing British colonial rule in India? Hamas is only defending their homeland which was under Zionist onslaught for the last 41 years and under forbidding economic blockade for last eight years. How it feels if one tightens up the knot around your neck, let you suffocate to death and you manage to kick him away to get some air and if then he started firing on you because “you attacked him first”??? So, those 2 acts cannot be criticized at the same time and in a similar tone. And we’ve heard ample stories from the warlords about “human shields” and “attacking for self-defense” since the days of Vietnam…”