Western Wall’s Rabbi Slams Amnesty’s ‘Superfluous and Harmful’ Call to Boycott Israeli Heritage Sites
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites in Israel, on Wednesday dispatched a letter to Amnesty International demanding that it “immediately renounce” its “superfluous and harmful report” calling on tourism companies to refrain from publicizing Jewish heritage sights in Israel because of their alleged profit from the “occupation.”
Amnesty last month published a report claiming that Israel’s tourism industry in Judea and Samaria profits from the “occupation,” human rights violations and war crimes, and called on international tourism companies to boycott the industry and not to facilitate it in any manner.
The report alleged that the Israeli government’s development of archaeological sites “in settlements…is pivotal to its plans to develop and expand the settlements.”
Responding to the allegations, Rabbi Rabinowitz wrote that “King David taught us ‘the praises of a man are that he did not follow the counsel of the wicked, neither did he stand in the way of sinners nor sit in the company of scorners.’ I have no idea under whose wicked counsel and guidance you have made your decision to publish this report, but I can say that more than anything else, it embarrasses you and your aims.”
Giving Amnesty a lesson in history, the Rabbi brought the organization’s attention to “both Jewish history in Israel of the past 4,000 years, as well as the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the cynical use of religious values to justify blatantly trampling on the Jewish nation’s past and heritage.”
“As you well know, the Government of Israel provides freedom of religion to Muslims, Christians, and any other religion, much more so than any other country in the Middle East,” he noted.
While “ancient artifacts from the Mamluk, Umayyad, Crusader, early Christian, and Byzantine periods are sensitively and responsibly cared for by the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Muslim Waqf “enjoys unprecedented status and sovereignty – including the freedom to cause unfathomable archeological damage during construction work on the Temple Mount.”
“I would like to believe that despite your actions – your intentions are good, and that you actually do wish to put an end to this 115-year cycle of violence in the Land of Israel. But know this – without truth, there can be no peace,” the rabbi wrote in the missive.
“As the prophet Zechariah said, ‘Love peace and truth.’ As long as you continue to treat the Jewish nation’s heritage in its land as a political issue, and its holy sites as conquered lands, not only will you not put out the flames, but you will be fanning them by your actions,” he warned Amnesty.
“I wholeheartedly believe that heritage and sacred sites can and must be sources of inspiration, love, and peace between all religions and nations,” and therefore he called on Amnesty to “immediately renounce this superfluous and harmful report, and join me and many others like me, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, who live side by side, respecting each other’s heritage, and wishing to live with true tolerance in his land that is holy to us all.”
NGO Monitor, a watchdog, stated last month that Amnesty’s campaign “solely targets these companies working in Israel and ignores their activity in every other conflict area/disputed territory throughout the world. China? fine. Syria? No problem. Israel? #NoJewsAllowed.”
“Amnesty seeks to erase Jewish historical and cultural sites. This is pure hatred and bigotry reminiscent of some of the darkest periods of the past,” NGO Monitor charged.
Amnesty’s pressure has borne fruit after Airbnb announced in November 2018 its decision to delist some 200 Israeli homes located in Judea and Samaria because they are located in an area which Airbnb claims is “at the core of the dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Israel has launched a process through which it intends to take action against the tourism company. An Israeli inter-ministerial governmental team, including the ministries of Tourism, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Economy, as well as the Tax Authority, is currently working on venues of action.