Lorde is boycotting Israel – but here is the reason every other traveller should go

 I guess I could boycott travel to Israel – but I doubt it would make much difference. No one really cares when you make grandiose statements and you're a nobody.

A few Israeli restaurants would miss out on some business as a result of my decision. A few bars would sell fewer beers. Maybe a hotel or two would miss out on a booking.

In other words, my boycott would serve only to hurt the normal nobodies of Israel – the people such as myself. A few businesses might be harmed, slightly, but world leaders wouldn't blink an eye.

If I were Lorde, however – if I were a musician who'd sold millions of records and had almost 8 million followers on Twitter – then a boycott of Israel would mean something. Then, people would take notice.

And of course, it has, and they have. A few weeks ago the Kiwi singer announced she was cancelling a concert in Israel after fans wrote to her, claiming that to perform in the country would show tacit support for its continued encroachment on Palestinian territory.

So Lorde pulled out, and people in certain quarters have obviously been upset. Jewish leaders, plus the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand, plus, you know, lots of angry people on Twitter, have criticised the decision. An American rabbi took out an ad in the Washington Post to label the 21-year-old a "bigot".

For the record, I'm on board with Lorde's decision. While I don't think a boycott from me would make any difference in the world to the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, a boycott from Lorde does. If nothing else, it starts a conversation. It increases worldwide awareness that maybe there's a problem here that needs addressing with more than just America's ham-fisted neo-diplomacy.

See for yourself

For us regular travellers, however, I would definitely not encourage any similar actions, regardless of how you feel about the situation in the Middle East. Maybe you think Israel's increased occupation of Palestinian territory is wrong. Maybe you think Israelis are in an incredibly precarious position and should do whatever they can to protect themselves.

Whatever you think, you should go to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. You should see these places for yourself. You should meet the people involved. You should judge it for what it is, rather than what you've been told.


And that's not to say that your opinion, once you arrive, will necessarily be swayed one way or the other. Maybe a visit there will change your mind; maybe it will just serve to confirm the things you already believed.

I spent a few weeks in 2016 touring Israel and the Palestinian Territories and I loved every second of it. I loved the people I met, Israeli and Palestinian. I loved the history of the place. I loved having the chance to taste and feel this amazing part of the world.

Food tours are taking off in an area that is far better known for its religious tourism.

On the final night of my stay there I was sitting with a few fellow travellers, talking about the things we'd seen, saying how amazing it had been to see everything with our own eyes and better understand it all. "Exactly," one of the people there said. "I mean, the things the Israelis have to go through just to survive ... It's horrific."

That's kind of funny, I thought, because I was feeling the exact opposite. I'd been touched by the stories I'd heard in Palestine, by the sight of walls dividing territory, by the experience of queuing up in a car to get into Ramallah, by the clear case of haves and have-nots – those with rights and those with no rights – that was taking place in front of me. Surely it's the Palestinians who are suffering?

But not everyone sees things the same way, and that's fine. The important thing is simply that you see it.

I've never been a fan of travel boycotts. You don't strike a blow against a powerful and detested regime by staying at home. You just strike a series of small blows against everyday people in foreign lands who could very well feel exactly the same way as you do.

You don't just deny yourself the chance to meet these people and hear different stories and make judgments for yourself. You also deny those citizens your business, and your viewpoints, and your experiences. Everyone remains as they were. Everyone loses. Except, of course, that hated regime.

Lorde's decision to boycott Israel is a powerful one that has a lot of meaning. But as travellers, your decision, and my decision, means very little to the world at large. In fact electing to boycott a country inevitably does more harm than good.

So yes, you should go to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. You should go to Tel Aviv and Haifa, Jerusalem and Ramallah. You should go to Nablus and Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jericho. You should meet people there. See things. Make your own decisions.

And then tell the world.

Have you travelled to Israel and the Palestinian Territories? Would you recommend it? Do you think travel boycotts are effective, or a waste of time?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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