An Israeli-run Dead Sea beach resort in the occupied West Bank attempted turned away a number of families on Friday, 13 April, apparently just because they were Palestinian.
This blatant act of racist discrimination at “Kalia Beach” (map) was personally witnessed and caught on video by Hazel Cameron, a Lecturer of International Relations at Scotland’s University of St Andrews.
Cameron was traveling with a group of students and threatened to withdraw them from the beach resort unless all visitors were allowed in regardless of their ethnicity.
The Arab guard enforcing the exclusion of Palestinians even described himself on camera as “just a slave acting under orders.”
Cameron provided the video and her account of what she saw to The Electronic Intifada.
Arabs stopped, while Jews, Europeans and dogs allowed in
Cameron’s account of what she witnessed:
The Kalia Beach Dead Sea resort is a popular destination for Israelis and tourists alike. The resort is however owned by Kibbutz Kalia, an illegal Israeli settlement on the north shore of the Dead Sea and the beach itself is located within the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) of the West Bank.
Websites advertising tourism in the area fail to make this clear. One reviewer on Trip Advisor suggests that a visit to the Kalia Beach is “an unusual and fun experience.” However on visiting the resort a few days ago, I noted that the racist policies of the management were neither unusual nor fun for the Palestinian families attempting to enjoy the beaches of their homeland.
Soon after our arrival it became apparent that whilst Israeli Jews (and their pet dogs), Europeans, and Westerners could enter the resort unhindered, Palestinians were being stopped immediately upon leaving the car parking area and were being turned away. When the “guard” was challenged by my Israeli Jewish colleague and me, he informed us he was acting under the instructions of the Kalia Beach management.
When questioned in an office within the resort by my Israeli colleague, the management claimed that their policies were dictated by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and ultimately the State of Israel. Three armed IDF [soldiers] arrived at the resort within minutes of us voicing our concerns.
Almost thirty minutes later and after threats of police arrest being made to my colleague, the Arab families were allowed to make their way towards the entry gate of the resort, only to be told shortly thereafter that the resort was now full and they would have to leave. Israeli Jewish families did however continue to be admitted. One full hour after our intervention, the management relented and permitted access to an Arab family. These events were captured on video.
“I am just a slave acting under orders”
The video taken by Cameron supports her account. At the beginning of the video, we can see a family including men and women and several children carrying beach toys being stopped at the entrance. The family are visibly identifiable as Arabs as two of the women are wearing headscarves.
At about 43 seconds the guard, speaking Arabic, can be heard saying to the father of the family, “This is harder for me than it is for you.”
As the father continues to argue to be allowed in, he tells the guard that the people at the ticket booth know him as the family has come before. The guard insists he cannot allow the family in saying, “Please don’t embarrass me, I am just a slave acting under orders.”
The father insists that the family has visited the resort several times previously, and the guard says, “I feel for you, I swear, I swear.”
Cameron then informs the family that she and her group will pull out of the resort if they are not allowed in.
At 3:30 armed occupation soldiers can be seen walking into the resort and clustering around the entrance.
At 5:30 a man speaking in Arabic speaking off camera can be heard saying that whenever there is an Israeli holiday, they don’t let Arabs in.
At 6:50 three men, apparently Palestinians, can be seen standing by the entrance, also apparently unable to proceed into the resort.
At 8:00 the guard can be seen explaning to another two Arab men that they are not allowed in. Although the sound quality is poor, the guard appears to tell them “I am telling you that in general Palestinians [unclear]” And once again, “this is harder for me than it is for you.” But the two men are allowed to proceed, presumably to the ticket window.
Refusing to ignore discrimination
In her account to The Electronic Intifada, Cameron pointed out that, “the question of Israeli racism is not new,” citing the wealth of accumulated evidence of systematic and instutionalized racism.
“There are options open to the international community and international organizations to address the criminal behaviour of the State of Israel however they choose to remain willing bystanders to the oppression of the people of Palestine,” Cameron added.
Cameron, however, chose not to remain a willing bystander. In threatening to withdraw her students from a resort practicing open and crude racism, she was clearly also acting in accordance with the letter and spirit of her own university’s Equality and Diversity Inclusion Policy, which commits the institution and its staff to “to respect and fair treatment for everyone, eliminating discrimination and actively promoting equality of opportunity and delivering fairness to all.”
Cameron was also heeding the policy’s injunction that, “Individuals must ensure they do not support unfair behaviour by ignoring what is happening around them and must not incite or collude with unfair or unlawful discrimination.”
Cameron cleary took this policy seriously, setting an example we can only hope many others would follow.