Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Displaying Bigotry -- Paying the Price

"[Cruise staff] were very elusive. They said they got an email from the immigration department in Tunisia stating Israelis were not allowed to get off the ship. They were not given any reason why Israelis were not allowed off the ship -- they indicated that in previous months when they had been to Tunisia, Israelis were allowed to get off -- and that they didn't know why this was happening."
Canadian Ed Glina, Norwegian Jade cruise ship passenger

norwegian cruise lines
Mr. Glina, a Canadian citizen, was incensed enough over the incident that he chose to remain behind, on board the cruise ship in company with the dozen Israelis refused permission to enter the Muslim country. In so doing he was expressing his humanity, and exhibiting in fine fashion the stance his country takes in facing religious bigotry, and in particular that very special bigotry called anti-Semitism, that blights human relations.

Tunisia was, before its 'Arab Spring' revolution -- the North African country that was the first to be subjected to mass protests succeeding in bringing down its former corrupt government -- a socially free and cosmopolitan society. Where a small number of Tunisian Jews still live, but became extremely concerned when the old government fell and the new one entered; 'moderately' Islamist, the media gushes. But one that imposes new 'values' on its society.

It is a country where Jews once lived in abundance, where they had lived for over a thousand years, under Muslim rule and where tolerance evaporated once the State of Israel became a reality, when Tunisian Jews, like those from countries all over North Africa and the Middle East were banished, their properties appropriated by the state without recompense. Jews are accustomed to living on tenterhooks. But, like any other individuals, they too seek out holiday opportunities.

Cruise officials on the Norwegian Jade left voice mails for Israeli passengers giving warning against disembarking at the port in Tunis. When they complained to the captain, they were advised that there was nothing that could be done about the situation. The Norwegian cruise company spoke to Tunisian officials but nothing came of their overtures.

"The singling out of Israeli citizens in this manner is concerning and inconsistent with principles of openness, tolerance and religious freedom that are enshrined in Tunisia's new progressive constitution", Adam Hodge, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird wrote, in a statement.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development is working closely with Canada's embassy in Tunisia to determine the reason for this refusal. Canada's ambassador in Tunisia has registered Canada's concerns about this incident to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the Interior Ministry. Neither ministry was aware of any new Tunisian policy concerning Israeli tourists seeking to enter Tunisia."

Over a dozen Middle East and North African countries will not permit entry to Israeli citizens, while a handful refuse entry to any tourists of any nationality who may have an Israeli stamp on their travel documents. Prior to the Arab Spring event Israelis often went off on holidays to Tunisia. That was the old Tunisia; this is the new, liberated Tunisia.

"For me, it was a surprise because we were coming here because we wanted to be in Tunis", said Yaacov Zacharia, 67, one of the Israeli passengers. He had never before found himself in such a situation. He found the ship's staff polite. The passengers had met with the captain, and he too was kind, but no solutions were to be found.

Mr. Glina gave his opinion that the ship's captain should have chosen a friendlier port. Alternatively the captain could have made a general announcement to the entire passenger list. "We understand that there are a lot of politics involved but our position with the captain was that he was colluding with a selection process that was unacceptable."

Evidently the cruise ship line may think so too.  They have cancelled all visits to Tunis. Norwegian Cruise Lines announced the cancellation of all future visits to the North African port, and have asserted they have no intention of returning. "We want to send a strong message to Tunisia, and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests", announced Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line's CEO.

"We are outraged by this act and the fact that we were not notified in advance of this practise." A day before the ship's scheduled arrival in La Goulette, Tunis on Sunday they were informed that no Israeli passengers would be permitted to disembark.

Bravo, Norwegian Cruise Line.

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