Geopolitics

Terrorism And Tourism: Red Alerts On World Tourism Map

A heat map from French tourism professionals, forced to rethink where to send eager would-be globetrotters in the face of new and old security threats.

Grounded
Grounded
Christophe Palierse

-Analysis-

PARIS â€" Five years after the Arab Spring, our blue planet has more and more zones turning red and orange. These are two of the three colors used by the French Foreign Ministry to rank countries around the world according to their relative degrees of security.

Traveling to countries classified in red is officially discouraged, the orange color indicates that a trip should be avoided unless there is an absolute necessity. Countries ranked in green â€" ordinary vigilance advised â€" are growing scarcer and scarcer. Beyond Western countries, they include Russia, South Korea, Japan and Mongolia.

In the Arab-Muslim world, the only remaining countries classified as green are Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Turkey shows a mixed picture, as a result of its common borders with Syria and Iraq, as well as the jihadist threat and the Kurdish guerilla forces of the PKK.

The Foreign Ministry, whose travel advice is often criticized for being too restrictive by tour operators, has also added a yellow “reinforced monitoring” signal. It applies to most countries located in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. Many of these travel destinations remain nonetheless very attractive, as travelers, who are more and more well informed, are able to measure the risk themselves and make their own decisions. Brazil for instance, in spite of the Zika virus outbreak and the current political and social unrest, was rather popular this winter. Thailand also remains a favorite, despite some drops in tourist influx over the past years.

The turmoil in the Arab-Muslim world seems to have had a minimal impact on travel to Islamic countries in Asia. Indonesia, among others, has recovered from a drop last year. We cannot say as much about the southern shore of the Mediterranean, where the booking rate is still low. In France, the dramatic consequences of the Arab Spring have completely upset the tourism sector, affecting not only the operators of residential clubs but also those specialized in tour circuits and hiking.

Empty beach in Sousse, Tunisia â€" Photo: Tony Hisgett

According to the French tour operator trade union (SETO), in 2010, Tunisia and Morocco, the two top foreign travel destinations favored by the French, along with Turkey and Egypt accounted for one third of the holiday package market in France. Five years later, the landscape has changed dramatically. Tunisia is now relegated to the seventh position, with its tourist turnover having plummeted six-fold. Egypt has almost completely disappeared. Though still considered as a safe country, Morocco is also facing difficulties, with its tourist business at less than half of that in 2010.

Such lasting and inexorable geopolitical conflicts have forced French tour operators to focus on Southern Europe and the Canary Islands. Spain, which used to be the most popular destination, has regained all of its former appeal. The aftermath of the Arab Spring has also paved the way for the resurgence of Greece as a destination, though this year’s refugee crisis could have negative consequences. Portugal, meanwhile, is more popular than ever.

The search for a low-cost alternative to Tunisia leads to Bulgaria, but hope for its tourism development has yet to materialize, mostly due to the eastern European country's lack of transportation networks.

Let's also remember that shifting geopolitics can reopen old travel routes, as evidenced by both Iran and Cuba brightening up the blue planet for world travelers.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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